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The Trump Administration Is Signaling That Migrant Detention Is More Important That Disaster Relief

Just as Tropical Storm Dorian continues to barrel towards Puerto Rico on Tuesday, news broke that President Trump would be pulling $271 million from disaster relief funds. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the pulled funds will be coming from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Coast Guard in part to support President Trump’s border enforcement efforts.

Specifically, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would receive $155 million, coming from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, to help build facilities for migrant related court cases. U.S. Coast Guard operations will be losing $116 million in order to fund nearly 6,800 more beds for immigrant detainees as well as transportation and deportation needs. According to NBC News, The new allocated $271 million in funding “would allow ICE to detain nearly 50,000 immigrants at one time.” 

The previously allocated money was originally given to FEMA over 10 years ago. The funds were originally given to be used in this year’s current budget to prepare to respond to natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

Credit: @CBSNEWS / Twitter

DHS typically would have to get approval from Congress to reallocate funds from one of its agencies to another. This is because Congress appropriates each federal department’s annual budget. But instead, DHS sent a notice that said the administration has the authority to move the funds because of the “border emergency.”

“Given the rise of single adults crossing the border, ICE has already had to increase the number of detention beds above what Congress funded,” DHS said a statement. “Without additional funding for single adult detention beds and transportation from the U.S. Border Patrol to ICE detention facilities, ICE will not be able to support the influx of migrants from U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehensions.

The U.S. government has sent more than 30,000 people back to Mexico as part of it’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. This was done with efforts to have asylum seekers wait out their immigration cases and stop the influx of migrants from making the long journey to the U.S. The Trump administration also recently rolled out new policies that will allow migrant families, including those with children, to be detained indefinitely while their court cases are pending. Many speculate this is all being done to build more family detention facilities.

There has been criticism from Democrats who say the timing of these reallocated funds is a questionable move ahead of hurricane season.

Credit: @repvaldennings / Twitter

Democratic House members have already come out swiftly and strongly disagree with DHS reallocation efforts. They’ve also accused Homeland Security of going around appropriation rules without any requests from members of Congress.  

“I object to the use of funds for that purpose because the Department has provided no substantiation for a claim that this transfer is necessary due to ‘extraordinary circumstances that imminently threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property,’”  Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif said in a tweet. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, echoed a similar sentiment saying the allocated funds are crucial, especially during the incoming hurricane season.

“The Trump administration’s plan to divert money away from FEMA at the start of hurricane season to continue its efforts to separate and jail migrant families is backwards and cruel,” Schumer said in a statement. “Taking these critical funds from disaster preparedness and recovery efforts threatens lives and weakens the government’s ability to help Americans in the wake of natural disasters. Congress appropriated these funds to meet the American people’s priorities and I strongly oppose this effort to undermine our constitutional authority.”

President Trump weighed in on the pending storm but did so without mentioning the pulled $155 Million in funds. 

Credit: @realdonaldtrump / Twitter

This news comes as hurricane season quickly approaches here in the U.S. and as Hurricane Dorian is set to make landfall in Florida on Labor Day.The storm is already strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane that is leading the U.S. territory to declare a state of emergency.

On Tuesday morning, President Trump acknowledged the incoming Hurricane Dorian and lauded past relief efforts to Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Yet there was no mention of the recently pulled FEMA funds.

“Wow! Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico. Will it ever end?” Trump tweeted. “Congress approved 92 Billion Dollars for Puerto Rico last year, an all time record of its kind for ‘anywhere.'”

President Trump was widely criticized for a lack of urgency and preparation in retaliation to Hurricane Maria which ravaged Puerto Rico. The storm knocked out power on the island for months and killed 2,975, a number that is still being disputed.

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