Before Hurricane, Trump Admin Diverted FEMA Money To ICE Baby Jails
With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the Carolinas, we learned last night that the Department of Homeland Security shifted about $10 million in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier this summer to the far more important work being done by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Because why would you want to blow money on disasters that may not even happen when you could be spending it to build more detention facilities for families caught crossing the border illegally? Oh, sure, many of them may be claiming asylum, but that illegal crossing is a misdemeanor, for which they need to be locked up for years until their cases are decided. Besides, if there's a storm, Donald Trump will show up, throw some paper towels, and declare the federal response a huge success, and you don't need millions of dollars for that.
US Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon dropped the news bomb last night on the Rachel Maddow Show, just hours after Trump had proclaimed his administration's response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico "one of the best jobs that's ever been done with respect to what this is all about," because apparently 3,000 dead people is a terrific outcome, considering it was on an island, which is surrounded by very big water. All in all, Trump said, the administration's handling of Maria was "an incredible, unsung success." Especially if you're a sociopath who knows 30 percent of Americans will agree with whatever insane bullshit you put before them.
Here's Merkley's appearance on the Maddow program:
Merkley noted that the document -- which he obtained as part of his work on the Senate Appropriations Committee -- appears to show DHS scrambling to shift funds around to pay for the administration's "zero tolerance" policy of jailing as many migrant families as possible, first through taking children away from detained parents, and later by locking up entire families. In a statement, Merkley said,
This is a scandal [...] At the start of hurricane season — when American citizens in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are still suffering from FEMA's inadequate recovery efforts — the administration transferred millions of dollars away from FEMA. And for what? To implement their profoundly misguided 'zero-tolerance' policy. It wasn't enough to rip thousands of children out of the arms of their parents — the administration chose to partly pay for this horrific program by taking away from the ability to respond to damage from this year's upcoming and potentially devastating hurricane season.
A spreadsheet posted to Twitter by Merkley shows funds being transferred from areas like "Preparedness and Protection," "Mission Support," and "Response and Recovery," which sound on paper at least as if they might be kind of useful.
Merkley's office also gave a copy of the entire 39-page document to the Washington Post, which notes the transferred funds would pay for "Detention Beds" and ICE's "Transportation and Removal Program."
Also, isn't this fun? Other funds being shifted around were taken from Customs and Border Protection programs, including "Border security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology" to go into the detention and transportation for ICE. Yup, less money protecting the border, to pay for throwing people in jail once they're caught. Oh, and another chunk of money taken from FEMA and CPB ended up going to the Secret Service, for "Protective Operations -- Protection of Persons and Facilities," which we'll just assume means it's going to pay for golf cart rentals from Donald Trump to protect Donald Trump and meals for Secret Service agents at Trump properties.
A DHS spokesperson acknowledged the document was real, but insisted the funds transfer wouldn't affect the government's ability to respond to disasters, because what, you think they'd admit such a thing? DHS issued a tweet explaining we should all just settle down about the funding transfer, because it's nothing but a PROPAGANDA that will distract from the important mission of SAVING LIVES, and how dare you, Jeff Merkley and the Fake News! Just look at this shit:
The money in question — transferred to ICE from FEMA’s routine operating expenses — could not have been used for hu… https://t.co/Sycvc4JDwu— Tyler Q. Houlton (@Tyler Q. Houlton)1536720413.0
That money never could have helped with hurricane relief, so shut up and let us do our important work of saving lives and imprisoning Mexicans forever, OK? Not surprisingly, former DHS and FEMA people who spoke to WaPo called bullshit on the statement, since even if the transferred money wasn't specified for disaster relief, they still came from the overall readiness budget:
"Anyone who knows FEMA knows it's parsing words," Moira Whelan, a former chief of staff in the Office of Gulf Coast Rebuilding at Homeland Security's National Joint Information Center, told The Post. The disaster relief funding left untouched by the transfer, Whelan said, covers post-storm assistance and the rebuilding of public structures, while "Response and Recovery" money tapped for the transfer pays for plans, logistics, supply-chain management and after-action reports that seek to improve on previous seasons, said Whelan[.]
Oh! trying to improve on previous performance? Pfft, we don't need to do that anymore -- the "president" already made clear it's simply UNPOSSIBLE to do better than last year's hurricane season:
We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Ri… https://t.co/dED9plJWCR— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1536749519.0
And believe me, Donald Trump is the one who gave himself those A Pluses, so he ought to know, OK?
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