DHS TO MOVE $271 MILLION, INCLUDING $155 MILLION FROM FEMA’S DISASTER RELIEF FUND, TO SUPPORT PRESIDENT TRUMP’S IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

Government positions on immigration issues are often expressed in ideological or political terms.  However, more practically, it is the authorization of funds that actually implements these government positions.  For example, “Build the Wall” is just a political argument; unless funds are actually authorized to build a wall at the southwest border, the government will not actually construct any wall.  The importance of funding authorization by the government is exemplified by the action of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to move $271 million, including $155 million from the Disaster Relief Fund of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to support President Trump’s immigration enforcement efforts.

While the action was not announced to the public until August 27, DHS had notified Congress on July 26 of this action.  The $271 million is to be used to pay for immigration detention space (including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “single adult detention beds and transportation”) and temporary hearing locations (“temporary Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) Immigration Hearing Facilities”) for immigrants seeking asylum who have been forced to wait in Mexico based on the Trump administration’s policies concerning asylum.  This use of the $271 million was sent by DHS to Congress as a notification, rather than as a request because the Trump administration believes it has authority to reallocate these funds after Congress did not pass more funding for these purposes as part of an emergency immigration funding bill for the southwest border in June.  

In its public statement announcing the movement of the $271 million of funds, DHS stated, “MPP court docket backlogs will continue to grow and ICE will not be able to effectively and efficiently move single adult migrants between detention centers and courtrooms without the funding.  This realignment of resources allows DHS to address ongoing border emergency crisis by alleviating the surge along the Nation’s Southwest Border while minimizing the risk to overall DHS mission performance”. $116 million of the $271 million was previously allocated for Coast Guard operations, aviation security, and other components.  However, what has received particular criticism is the remaining $155 million, which was taken from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund just as hurricane season begins, including Hurricane Dorian bearing down on the United States.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stated, “The Trump administration’s plan to divert money away from FEMA at the start of hurricane season to continue its efforts to separate and jail migrant families is backward and cruel. . . . Taking these critical funds from disaster preparedness and recovery efforts threaten lives and weaken the government’s ability to help Americans in the wake of natural disasters.  Congress appropriated these funds to meet the American people’s priorities and I strongly oppose this effort to undermine our constitutional authority”. House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) stated that the Trump administration is “flouting the law and Congressional intent to fund its extremist indefinite detention immigration policies. . . . Taking money away from TSA and from FEMA in the middle of hurricane season could have deadly consequences.  Congress should work to undo the damage this Administration is continually doing to our homeland security infrastructure”.

While authorizations of funds would seem to be within the “power of the purse” that is supposedly vested in Congress, as shown by the reallocation of $271 million for immigration enforcement as described above, the Trump administration will, in fact, attempt to exercise this power itself to support its anti-immigration policies.  Under these circumstances, immigrants need to muster as many resources as possible to fight the Trump administration on immigration rights issues. One such important resource is skilled immigration law counsel, such as the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, which for years has successfully represented immigrants on immigration rights issues.  If you need assistance with any immigration rights issue, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000, for help.