MSNBC's Rachel Maddow said Tuesday night that, based on documents from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the Department of Homeland Security transferred $9.8 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the summer, apparently to support the increased costs of President Trump's "zero tolerance" border policy, including the separation of migrant children from their parents.
DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton tweeted that "under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts," adding that "the money in question — transferred to ICE from FEMA's routine operating expenses — could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations." The department did not dispute the authenticity of the documents, however, and Merkley and Maddow pointed out that the money is listed to have been moved from FEMA disaster response and recovery accounts to ICE.
Merkley, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he believes the money was transferred around June, the start of what has turned out to be a very active hurricane season. Transferring the funds is legal, he said, but the White House would have to tell Congress — and with an amount this big, it would also probably have to notify Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) or the chairman of the homeland security subcommittee. You can learn more in his interview with Maddow below. Peter Weber