“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 spokesperson said.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted the Trump administration on Tuesday over its decision to pull money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other agencies to put toward immigration enforcement efforts.
“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,” he continued. “Congress appropriated these funds to meet the American peoples’ priorities and I strongly oppose this effort to undermine our constitutional authority.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Tuesday that it will reprogram $271 million to expand its immigration detention capacity and fund a program to return Central American migrants to Mexico.
Of the total DHS funding reallocation, $116 million will go toward single adult detention beds, while $155 million will be used to cater to the Migrant Protection Protocols program.
In addition to FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, money will be taken from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration.
The decision comes as Tropical Storm Dorian is nearing Puerto Rico and could strengthen into a hurricane as it approaches the island.
The move has sparked backlash from congressional Democrats who ripped the administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the U.S. territory in 2017.
In addition to Schumer, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said the decision by the administration to reallocate funds is “déjà vu all over again.”
“President Trump and his administration are not just endangering the lives of the children and families they seek to harm in the name of deterrence. By shortchanging preparedness, they’re endangering the lives of millions of Americans who live in hurricane zones as well,” he added.
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.”
A spokesperson for FEMA said the transfer would leave a balance of $447 million in the FEMA disaster relief funds base account.
“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,” they added.
– Updated Aug. 28 at 1:44 p.m. with comment from FEMA