President Donald Trump’s administration is reportedly interested in taking money from within the Department of Homeland Security aimed at disaster relief and putting it toward immigration detention facilities.
According to a report published by NBC News on Tuesday, the government is planning on moving $271 million, including from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund and the Coast Guard, toward spaces to detain asylum seekers and hold them for hearings. The changes were allegedly sent to Congress as a notification, not a request.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico was under a hurricane watch Tuesday night for Tropical Storm Dorian. Still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which killed thousands of people on the island almost two years ago, Puerto Rico is in a precarious spot and unlikely to receive any useful help from the U.S. government.
According to the NBC News report, which was based on a letter from Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif. shown to NBC News, $155 million from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund would go to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Officials apparently said that $116 million from the Coast Guard would go toward 6,800 beds for people being held in detention, which would allow ICE to detain 50,000 people at one time. According to CNN, $23.8 million for immigration policing would come from the Transportation Security Administration.
“Taking money away from TSA and from FEMA in the middle of hurricane season could have deadly consequences,” House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told CNN.
A DHS official told NBC News: “We would not say this is with no risk but we would say that we worked it in a way to…minimize the risk. This was a must-pay bill that needed to be addressed.”
I happen to have one very, very cost-effective solution when it comes to detention facilities, whose terrible conditions are sometimes deadly. It’s a bit of a galaxy brain take that I have so please bear with me: abolish ICE and the concentration camps. Now you don’t have to pay for them anymore.
Roybal-Allard told NBC News: “I object to the use of funds for that purpose because the Department has provided no substantiation for a claim that this transfer is necessary due to ‘extraordinary circumstances that imminently threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property.’”
FEMA also told CNN that their efforts would not be hit, saying that their major disaster relief fund would remain at $27 billion. The base account, they said, would still have $447 million. Given the amount of destruction natural disasters have created in the U.S. over the past two decades or so, it does start to make some sense that the agency would have so much money left over.