Senator: Trump swiped FEMA money to fund 'horrible' family separations


At the beginning of hurricane season, the Trump administration transferred $10 million away from FEMA to fund ICE programs focused on detention and removal.

To help fund efforts to tear toddlers away from their parents and operate baby jails, Trump took $10 million intended for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which handles federal disaster response efforts.

New documents released by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), first reported by the Rachel Maddow Show, show the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) transferred $9.8 million away from FEMA to fund "Detention Beds" and the "Transportation and Removal Program" of ICE, the agency leading the Trump family separation program.

"It wasn’t enough to rip thousands of children out of the arms of their parents," Merkley said in a statement. "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."

Merkley's revelation comes as Hurricane Florence is racing toward the east coast with high winds. Trump unhelpfully described the massive Category 4 hurricane as "tremendously wet," as the governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia make preparations and order evacuations.

As a result of its cruel "zero tolerance" policy at the border, the Trump administration kidnapped thousands of immigrant children from their parents, even if their parents were seeking asylum. After fleeing violence and seeking safety in America, parents saw their children whisked away — not to be seen or heard from for months, if at all.

In one case, a toddler became sick in a detention center and later died. Numerous parents allege they were tricked into signing away their rights to be reunified with their children.

More than a month after a federal court ordered the Trump administration to reunify families, hundreds of children still remain in government custody and separated from their parents.

The exact date of the request to transfer the funds is unclear. But the Washington Post, which also received a copy of the documents from Merkley's office, estimates it originated in June, at the height of Trump's family separation program.

"Clearly they were saying, 'If we're going to start arresting, as a criminal matter, and detaining people, we need to have much bigger detention camps — oh, well, we better get some more money into that,'" Merkley said on Maddow's show.

And to help pay for this program, which has received national and international condemnation, Trump swiped funds intended to help the federal government respond to natural disasters like hurricanes.

"This is a scandal," Merkley said. "At the start of hurricane season — when American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still suffering from FEMA’s inadequate recovery efforts — the administration transferred millions of dollars away from FEMA."

FEMA tried to push back, claiming that funds taken from efforts such as "Preparedness and Protection" and "Response and Recovery" would not have been used for hurricane response efforts.

Former FEMA officials scoffed at those claims, according to the Post, and said the money is critical for general preparedness.

Trump referred to his administration's response to Hurricane Maria last year as an "unsung success," even though 3,000 people died. He learned so little from those mistakes that he saw fit to take money away from this year's hurricane preparations in order to put children in cages.

No matter how many times it seems the Trump administration has hit rock bottom, the amoral administration keeps falling to new depths.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.