In the “nice priorities” department, Rachel Maddow reported last night on MSNBC that Trump’s Department of Homeland Security transferred almost $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA)—which will be critical in responding to Hurricane Florence in about three days—to ICE, which has gained renown this year for its nasty habit of separating children from their parents at the border and detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants with a ruthless kind of cruelty.
The information came from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and you can watch the Maddow segment here:
As #HurricaneFlorence bears down, I discovered today that the Trump Administration is taking money away from @FEMA so that they can pay to put more asylum seekers in detention centers. This is a scandal. pic.twitter.com/XRj928RIaD— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) September 12, 2018
You may remember Merkley as one of the senators who has been most aggressive in exposing the child separation travesties at the border. Here's what he had to say about the money transfer:
“It means that just as hurricane season is starting…the administration is working hard to find funds for additional detention camps, and of course this is all part of the child separation policy, and that's how this information came into my hands because of my work on the issue of trying to stop the child separations.”
Here are the documents Merkley's team unearthed:
Unbelievable? Yes. Reprehensible? Yes. But it's true. Look for yourself: pic.twitter.com/O0SxI9p5ho— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) September 12, 2018
As you see, most of the FEMA money went to “custody operations,” which means detention centers, and the rest went to the “transportation and removal program”—not much imagination is needed to decipher that one.
(Incidentally, the document also shows that money was transferred from border security to pay for detention centers, which is not quite as outrageous, but certainly comes close.)
A Homeland Security spokesperson did not deny that the transfer took place, but did try to cloud the issue by insisting that none of the $10 million taken from FEMA was earmarked for disaster relief:
Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts. 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.— Tyler Q. Houlton (@SpoxDHS) September 12, 2018
It should go without saying, but Houlton's justification for the transfer is unbelievably flimsy—if you think draining $10 million from FEMA in any capacity won't reduce that agency's ability to respond effectively to impending disasters, well…I have a hurricane I want to sell you.
Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising coming from an administration whose leader just had the audacity to praise himself for his administration's incompetent response to Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico late last year.
We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2018
More than 3,000 Puerto Ricans died as a result of Hurricane Maria, and thousands remain without power even today.