President Donald Trump’s administration is set to pull $271 million from the Department of Homeland Security — including $155 million allocated for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund — to pay for immigrant detention space and temporary hearing locations for asylum-seekers forced to wait in Mexico, multiple news outlets reported Tuesday.
These funds would reportedly allow the government to fund nearly 6,800 additional beds for immigrant detainees.
The move comes after Congress declined the administration’s request to include additional funding for its border security measures in a disaster relief bill passed in June. According to NBC News, the Trump administration believes it has the authority to reallocate these funds in lieu of congressional approval.
The announcement comes at a precarious time as hurricane season is ratcheting up and Puerto Rico is bracing for Tropical Storm Dorian.
On Tuesday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) condemned Trump’s fund diversion effort, describing it as “brazen theft.”
“The President’s brazen assault on the Congress’s most fundamental Constitutional power, the power of the purse, is cruel, deeply dangerous and made in bad faith,” she said in a statement. “Stealing from appropriated funds is always unacceptable, but to pick the pockets of disaster relief funding in order to fund an appalling, inhumane family incarceration plan is staggering ― and to do so on the eve of hurricane season is stunningly reckless.”
Trump has repeatedly shown a desire to spend disaster relief funds as he chooses. In 2018, reports alleged the president had been advocating the end of disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico as the commonwealth recovered from Hurricane Maria.
The administration’s latest proposal for disaster relief funding would result in the U.S. Coast Guard losing $116 million originally allocated for aviation security and other Coast Guard operations, according to officials.
The Trump administration is expected to reallocate $155 million originally intended for FEMA to instead erect more temporary hearing locations outside the U.S., where the administration prefers asylum-seekers await the outcomes of their cases.
The American Civil Liberties Union responded to the report Tuesday afternoon by assailing “[DHS]’s reckless disregard for constitutional checks and balances” and calling on Congress to restrict the agency’s ability to “manipulate the budget process.”
Barring legal proceedings, officials say the transfer of funds is expected to occur immediately.
This article has been updated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement.