U.S. President Donald Trump has instructed that $155 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief goes to cover Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s operational facility costs.
The transfer of funds won’t affect the Trump administration’s ability to respond to Hurricane Dorian, a tropical storm traveling toward the country’s east coast.
The funds would go to temporary court hearings for asylum-seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border, NBC News reported last Tuesday, Sept. 3.
According to a report by TPM News, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) stated that $155 million from the Disaster Relief Fund will be transferred to ICE for the agency to build immigration court hearing facilities at the southern border.
The Department of Homeland Security informed Congress of its plans to adjust its program and transfer funds from agencies over to ICE. The department is planning this as a means “to respond to the ongoing humanitarian and border security crisis at the border” as “Congress didn’t see fit to provide that funding.”
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in an interview with “This Week” on ABC, “No money has been moved yet.”
Congress will also be “look[ing] at departmental sources across that have a limited impact, but will support the ongoing management of that crisis as well,” according to McAleenan.
“Any potential transfers will not impact our ability to respond to this storm or any other storms in the rest of the hurricane season,” McAleenan said. There are two different elements of the disaster recovery fund. The major disaster fund has $25 billion in it. So, a $155 million transfer from the base fund is not going to affect our ability to respond and recover from a major disaster.”
“We live with risk every day,” acting FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor said to Fox News Sunday. “We assess that $155 million is low risk and is not affecting our preparedness whatsoever for Dorian.”
Gaynor added during the same interview that the agency has “plenty of money and resources to deal with the 2017 and 2018 disasters and recoveries and to include response in 2019, this season.”
According to a FEMA statement to CNN, the transfer of funds is going to be used “to support the border emergency will leave a remaining balance of $447 million in the DRF (Disaster Relief Fund) Base account. Based on DHS and FEMA’s review of historical emergency spending from the DRF Base account, this amount will be sufficient to support operational needs and will not impact ongoing long-term recovery efforts across the country.”
“The DRF Majors account, which provides funding for ongoing recovery efforts, including those supporting communities impacted by the 2017 disasters, has a current balance of approximately $27 billion and is not impacted by the reprogramming,” the FEMA statement reads.
An official statement from ICE on Aug. 30 however, has stated that it will not be acting during Hurricane Dorian.
“A crisis such as the devastation and destruction caused by a hurricane is not a time to compound one tragedy upon another by spreading fear in our community with false rumors of ICE operations,” the statement reads. “Instead we must stand as one community to focus on aiding the victims.”
The agency was inactive during past storms as well, such as during Hurricane Florence in 2018, and hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017.