Democrats blasted the Trump administration on Tuesday, Aug. 27, over its decision to transfer funds among agencies to address the border emergency crisis.
The Department of Homeland Security is shifting $271 million from other agencies such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Coast Guard to expand its immigration detention capacity and to fund a program to return Central American migrants to Mexico while they wait for court cases in the United States.
The Homeland Security Department includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard and the new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in addition to immigration agencies.
It is common for unassigned funds to be transferred between agencies under the same department as the fiscal year ends. Last year around the same time, about $200 million was transferred, including $10 million from FEMA that prompted major criticism from Democrats.
To address border emergency crisis
Homeland Security officers announced in a declaration Tuesday that they would transfer $155 million to establish temporary facilities on the U.S.-Mexico border for proceedings to move asylum cases more quickly through the system.
More than 30,000 people have been sent back to Mexico by the U.S. government to wait for their immigration cases in an effort to deter migrants from making the dangerous journey to the United States and alleviate the crush of Central American families that has greatly strained the system.
Asylum-seekers had generally been released into the United States and allowed to work, but many Trump administration officials believe migrants take advantage of the laws and stop showing up to court.
“Given the rise of single adults crossing the border, ICE has already had to increase the number of detention beds above what Congress funded,” according to the DHS statement. Without the funding increase ICE can’t keep up with apprehensions by Border Patrol agents.
“This realignment of resources allows DHS to address ongoing border emergency crisis … while minimizing the risk to overall DHS mission performance,” according to the statement.
Democrats denounce the decision
Democratic House members strongly disagreed and accused DHS of going around their specific appropriations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “Stealing from appropriated funds is always unacceptable, but to pick the pockets of disaster relief funding in order to fund an appalling, inhumane family incarceration plan is staggering—and to do so on the eve of hurricane season is stunningly reckless.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted the Trump administration over its decision.
“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 backward 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,” he continued. “Congress appropriated these funds to meet the American peoples’ priorities and I strongly oppose this effort to undermine our constitutional authority,” according to The Hill.
In addition to Schumer, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said the decision by the administration to reallocate funds is “déjà vu” all over again.
House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) also said in a letter to DHS, dated Friday, that the department had “provided no substantiation for a claim that this transfer is necessary.”
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) also criticized the move, saying it puts other essential agency tasks at risk.
“Taking money away from TSA and from FEMA in the middle of hurricane season could have deadly consequences,” said Thompson. “Congress should work to undo the damage this administration is continually doing to our homeland security infrastructure.”
Includes reporting from the Associated Press.