Tina Burch/ZUMA Press/NewscomThe Trump administration came under fire this week following the revelation that almost $10 million had been transferred from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to help pay for the detention and removal of immigrants.
Asked about the issue during a briefing on US preparations for Hurricane Florence, which is now barrelling toward the US Southeast coast as a Category 4 storm, FEMA Associate Administrator Jeff Byard said the agency still had "plenty" of resource to respond.
Many Democratic lawmakers have called for the agency to be abolished.
Merkley's office said he found the reallocation concerning given last season's hurricane response, when the agency was criticized for its handling of Hurricane Maria. He accused the administration of diverting funds from hurricane relief just as hurricane season was starting.
"Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts", Houlton said on Twitter.
The fund transfer was revealed in a June 30th document obtained by Merkley, a vocal critic of Trump's immigration policies who helped draw attention to the separation of families at the border.
Maddow reported that the $9.8 million would help ICE with border security, including building new detention centers, even while admitting that DHS said that the transfer of funds from one agency operating budget to another agency is governed by law.
Addressing the issue, DHS spokesman Tyler Houston said no funds were taken from disaster relief programs.
But it's unclear exactly when the money from FEMA was reallocated as the document simply notes Fiscal Year 2018 but does not include an exact date.
While the political storm played out, FEMA moved ahead with widespread efforts to get states ready for the hurricane.
But reporters at a press conference at FEMA's Washington headquarters wanted to know about Sen.
"Right now about all I'm doing when I think about FEMA is thinking about the potential impact of the current hurricane; we're still recovering from Hurricane Matthew", Sen. Almost 3,000 people died in the storm and its aftermath. But he remains hopeful FEMA will be up to the task with Florence. Money was also transferred to ICE from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration. "We would expect nothing less than a very strong effort by FEMA in Virginia".
Trump also took a few moments to praise his administration's response to Hurricane Maria as "incredibly successful", despite the fact that a government-commissioned study published last month found that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico because of the devastating storm. He also used the occasion to trumpet as an "incredible, unsung success" his administration's response to Hurricane Maria, which caused almost 3,000 deaths on Puerto Rico, a US territory already badly damaged by Hurricane Irma weeks earlier.