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Trump Administration Transferred Nearly $10 Million From FEMA To ICE For Detention Programs

Climate Centre / Flickr / icegov / Instagram

The Trump administration took nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) budget this summer to help the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to a budget report released last week. The document sent to Congress and released by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, shows that FEMA cut funding on training, IT security and infrastructure investments. It also reveals that FEMA’s operations and support budget was transferred into accounts at ICE to pay for detention and removal operations as well as border fencing and technology.

A 39-page budget document shows that the Department of Homeland Security requested about $9.8 million be transferred from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Senator Merkley, appearing on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” said the Trump administration was taking money from FEMA’s “response and recovery” and “working hard to find funds for additional detention camps.”

Merkely said he was made aware of FEMA’s budget cuts while looking into a solution for family separation and the detention centers set up along the border. He said the document makes it clear ICE is using money from FEMA “to build more detention centers.” Merkely believes the budgeting reallocation happened in response to the administration’s zero-tolerance policy. The policy has led to thousands of families being separated and housed in detention centers, which he says may have increased the need for more money in ICE’s budget.

While the money transfer from FEMA to ICE is less than 1 percent of FEMA’s overall budget, the document does confirm that the money would be spent on ICE’s detention facilities.

The DHS, which includes both FEMA and ICE, told Congress that ICE needed $200 million to cover the costs of detaining and deporting more migrants than the agency expected. To cover the deficit, DHS “reprogrammed” its financial resources, which is allowed under budget rules. Because of the loss of the $9.75 million, FEMA “will curtail training, travel, public engagement sessions, IT security support and infrastructure maintenance,” the DHS writes. Without the money transfer, the document says “ICE will not be able to deport those who have violated immigration laws. ICE could also be forced to reduce its current interior enforcement operations.”

FEMA has acknowledged that funds were redirected but said the transfer hasn’t jeopardized relief efforts.

FEMA’s budget was decimated last year due to the barrage of storms and fires that affected the nation and the agency was criticized heavily for its handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

The DHS denies any money transferred came from FEMA’s disasters relief accounts, which pay for work related to hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts,” Tyler Q. Houlton, an agency spokesman, said on Twitter. “This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda at a time when the administration is focused on assisting millions on the East Coast facing a catastrophic disaster.”

The report comes as the President is denying the number of casualties caused by Hurricane Maria last fall.

President Trump is defended his administration’s response to the devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico last year, arguing new findings that Hurricane Maria killed far more people than initially believed. It’s the latest defense since Trump claimed that the federal response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was an “unsung success.”

According to the independent analysis commissioned by the governor of Puerto Rico, an estimated 2,975 more deaths than normal were recorded on the island from September 2017 to February 2018. The government’s first estimate was 64 deaths as a result of the hurricane. These numbers have left people wondering if similar results will happen again especially with the release of this document showing less funding for FEMA.

Many are questioning the transfer of money from FEMA to ICE, especially as Hurricane Florence hits the east coast.

Ray Zaccaro, Senator Merkley’s communications director, told NPR the administration’s response to the document has been indefensible.

“This comment from FEMA’s spokesperson is as factual as the president’s assertion that Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria was ‘incredibly successful’ and ‘one of the best jobs that’s ever been done.'” Zaccaro said.

The release of the documents come as Hurricane Florence emptied homes and hospitals in both South and North Carolina. Sixteen people have died in Hurricane Florence so far and hundreds of thousands of people remain without power as the storm drops a lot of rain on the region.


READ: Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria Death Toll Is Now Close To 3,000 People Instead Of The 64 People Originally Reported

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Immigration Detainees Joined Prisoners Nationwide To Strike Against Living Conditions And Very Low Wages In Prisons

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Immigration Detainees Joined Prisoners Nationwide To Strike Against Living Conditions And Very Low Wages In Prisons

@IGD_News / Twitter

The U.S. has just experienced on of the largest prison strikes in U.S. history. People who are incarcerated in at least 17 prisons across the U.S. are protested their living and working conditions. From privatized prisons stacking humans in cells to prison systems replacing the U.S. Postal Service with companies that charge impossibly high fees to send an email, this strike matters.

Latinos are incarcerated 200 percent more often than non-Latino white folks and are often sentenced to more time than white offenders for the same crime. While that is an entirely separate issue based in racism and classism. However, the fact remains that there are Latinos in prison who likely wouldn’t be there for as long or at all if they were white.

The strike began on August 21, the 47th anniversary of Black Panther activist George Jackson’s death.

CREDIT: @IGD_News / Twitter

The strike was announced a week after the April 15 prison riot at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina. Seven inmates were killed and another 22 people were injured. The Lee riots were ignited as the result of substantiated correctional officer (CO) brutality. The brutality is well-documented in several lawsuits against the very same prison.

The strike ended on Sept. 12, but it is unclear is the strikes did anything to better conditions in the prisons.

CREDIT: @AmericanIndian8 / Twitter

The people incarcerated participated in work strikes, hunger strikes, peaceful sit-ins and spending boycotts. The protests were supposed to end on Sept. 9, the same day as the Attica prison riots. If you haven’t seen “Thirteen” yet, do yourself a favor and learn about the history of black slavery in the U.S. and how the latest systemization of subjugating minorities is all in the prison system.

The inmates are protesting what they’re calling “modern-day slavery.”

CREDIT: @MaxHPF / Twitter

It’s no coincidence that you’re only seeing brown faces on these promotional materials. People of color have long been arrested and policed at disproportional levels in comparison to their white counterparts.

Many states can legally force prisoners to work without any compensation.

CREDIT: @armedtosketch / Twitter

Most states require prisoners to work dangerous jobs, and when they are paid, the wages are very low. Just a couple weeks ago, The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) bragged via Twitter about it’s 2,000 “volunteer” inmate firefighters, including 58 youth offenders. The inmates were fighting dangerous wildfires for $1 an hour.

The program saves the state $90-$100 million a year. Despite their experience, the prisoners can’t get jobs as firefighters when they are released. That’s because California requires firefighter to be licenses emergency medical technicians (EMTs) but those with criminal records are often denied EMT licenses.

Detainees in immigration center joined in on the protest to call attention to ICE treatment and conditions.

CREDIT: @ajplus / Twitter

Caption: “Up to 200 detained immigrants at Northwest Detention Center in Washington are on a work and hunger strike to protest forced labor. They join striking inmates in up to 17 prisons across the U.S. who are protesting sentencing laws, poor treatment and ‘prison slavery.'”

No. 1 on their list of demands: recognize humanity.

CREDIT: @WSWS_Updates / Twitter

“Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.”

Second, they want “an immediate end to prison slavery.”

CREDIT: @mmbilal / Twitter

They want to immediately be paid the “prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.” What that means is most likely minimum wage, which would be a 5,300 percent increase in wages.

They also want the Prison Litigation Reform Act rescinded immediately.

CREDIT: @ajplus / Twitter

The PLRA was enacted in 1996 as a means to prevent prisoners from litigating within prison. It also prevents prisoners from taking legal action “with respect to prison conditions” until “administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” It basically lets correctional officers and prison administration to regulate themselves.

Prisoners need our help in making sure their demands are heard.

CREDIT: @abqdsa / Twitter

Included in their demands are more funding for rehabilitation services.

“No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.”

Caption: “Putting in work for the workers on the inside. #PrisonStrike #PrisonStrike2018”

Top Democrats stayed quiet on the prison strike.

CREDIT: @IGD_News / Twitter

It’s shocking but it’s true. Democrats who claim to be all for prison reform, like California Senator Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker or Bernie Sanders have stayed silent.

Folks on the outside have rallied in support of the inmates, hoping to garner political attention.

CREDIT: @TheFinalCall / Twitter

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is running for the Congress, is one of the only Democrats to say something substantive.

In a tweet, Ocasio-Cortez shared an article along with this statement, “Today begins a nationwide prison strike demanding humane conditions & end to prison slavery. The U.S. incarcerates more than any other nation in the world. To change, we must acknowledge the direct lineage that mass incarceration has to slavery & Jim Crow.”

Inmates are demanding that their voting rights never be taken from them as an American right.

CREDIT: @MI_Abolition / Twitter

It’s nauseating to find out that the reason convicted felons have their voting rights stripped is a living breathing Jim Crow law. This is how you continue to keep American politics white and how to keep brown and black people out of politics.

Even anarchists have made themselves known in favor of inmates rights.

CREDIT: @TheBaseBK / Twitter

Caption: “Anarchists represented for the #PrisonStrike last night in Brooklyn. Revolutionaries must keep up the pressure for the #PrisonRebels as the fight inside escalates!”

We don’t know how big the prison strike really is.

CREDIT: @SawariMi / Twitter

That’s largely because the administration is trying to silence the prisoners. As of August 28, the highlighted states have confirmed prison action thus far, ranging from North Carolina labor strikes to several prisons going on lockdown after initiating strikes.

Some prison systems did bow to some pressure from the strikes.

CREDIT: @BRRN_Fed / Twitter

For inmates who have lost all ties to the life, family and world they built before being incarcerated, those 20 cents per minutes add up. Specifically, they add up to $25 saved per two hours of talking with their mami’s, esposos y hijos.

If you’re making $.14 an hour, that is gold.

We’re also seeing supporters get creative on the streets.

CREDIT: @cjdronanron / Twitter

Prisoners of the state are modern day slave laborers. The most important thing we can do to support prisoners is to raise awareness of their plight. “Orange is the New Black” was a great start to getting Americans to see the humanity in inmates and the injustices of the prison system, but it’s time to wake up to make change in real life.

Some of the protests called for violence against the prisons.

CREDIT: @Lefebvre_Sam / Twitter

Caption: “#PrisonStrike comes for the OkCupid billboards in Oakland.”

A report released on August 28 suspects that thousands of prisoners participated in 20 prisons, all the way to Canada.

CREDIT: @Evict_Twit_ter / Twitter

On the first day of the strike, more than 200 immigrants who are currently detained at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, publicly announced they were joining the strike in solidarity.

The truth is that since the 2016 strike, America cares more about inmates than ever before.

CREDIT: @IGD_News / Twitter

One can only assume that this is the start of a larger prison reform movement. As the strike gets further in the rearview mirror, it will be telling to see how states adapt rules and laws around how prisoners are treated.


READ: A New Study Shows The Financial Incentive For Corporations To Maintain Prisons And Detention Centers

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