Donald Trump filtered $10 million in FEMA emergency funds to boost the budget of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, documents released on Tuesday show.
The transfer was made public by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, who shared documents with MSNBC and said he saw it as dangerous to take emergency funds ahead of hurricane season. As USA Today reported, Merkley noted that last year saw three devastating storms in Maria, Harvey, and Irma, and that this season is sure to bring more.
“It’s almost guaranteed to happen again, so this is just incredibly irresponsible,” Merkley said.
The money had been earmarked for FEMA’s emergency response funding, the documents showed. It was also used for training and preparedness and protection programs.
Merkley released documents showing that Trump’s administration shifted money from other agencies including the TSA and U.S. Coast guard to boost the ICE budget. The money was used to fund immigrant detention, which spiked dramatically after Trump instituted a policy separating children from their families after crossing the border.
As USA Today noted, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security assure that none of the money transferred to ICE came from disaster relief funding.
“Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts,” said Tyler Houlton. “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,” he said in a tweet. “The money in question — transferred to ICE from FEMA’s routine operating expenses — could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations.”
The news of Trump’s $10 million comes just days before the expected landfall of Hurricane Florence, which is projected to strike the Carolinas as a Category 4 storm. As the Weather Channel noted, the storm is expected to bring “potentially catastrophic inland rainfall flooding” to the region.
“This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast,” the National Weather Service in Wilmington wrote on Tuesday in its projection of the storm.
Forecasters said the hurricane could reach Category 5, the highest on the scale, before making landfall sometime late on Thursday or early Friday. Residents along the coast of both North Carolina and South Carolina have been evacuated ahead of the storm.
Despite the controversy the transfer caused, defenders of Donald Trump noted that it is not likely to affect the response for the hurricane or other disasters. The amount transferred from emergency management funding to ICE represents just under 1 percent of the total FEMA budget, CNN noted.