Migrants cross the Rio Grande near Los Ebanos, Texas, on June 15, 2019. (Kris Grogan/CBP)

DHS Pulls Funds from FEMA, Coast Guard, TSA for Immigration Detention, Mexico Asylum Program

The Department of Homeland Security pulled $271 million in funding from sources including the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund and Disaster Relief Fund to bolster immigration detention and an asylum-deterrence program.

DHS said Tuesday that Sunday was the end of the 30-day notification period to Congress regarding the reprogramming of the funds, which includes $116 million to fund Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds and transportation and $155 million for the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) Immigration Hearing Facilities — the program that returns Central American asylum-seekers to Mexico while their cases are processed.

“Given the rise of single adults crossing the border, ICE has already had to increase the number of detention beds above what Congress funded,” DHS said in a statement. “Without additional funding for single adult detention beds and transportation from the U.S. Border Patrol to ICE detention facilities, ICE will not be able to support the influx of migrants from U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehensions.”

In addition to sapping more than $3.4 million from FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund and $155 million from the Disaster Relief Fund, the reprogramming takes $39 million from Customs and Border Protection’s Operations and Support budget, as well as more than $45 million from Coast Guard construction and improvement, research and development and the National Security Cutter program. The Transportation Security Administration takes more than a $24 million hit, including to federal air marshals and training.

The “Southwest Border Emergency Transfer and Reprogramming Notification” sent to Congress on July 26 details that the nearly $16 million coming from the National Security Cutter program was for Structural Enhancement Dry-dock Availability for NSC #2 and Post Delivery Activities (PDA) for NSC #9, and “critical Post Delivery Activities (PDA) for NSC #10 and NSC #11, which are necessary to make the cutters ready for operations.” It adds that “additional funding will be necessary in future years to ensure these cutter are ready for operations.”

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is losing $4.3 million appropriated for the National Cybersecurity Protection System (NCPS). “Should the funds be transferred out, CISA does not expect any measurable operational impact or increase in risk to NCPS customer Departments/Agencies,” DHS said.

Nearly a million is coming from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which “may result in facilities becoming unavailable for training and will result in increased deferred maintenance.”

On the money pulled from FEMA Disaster Relief Funds, the DHS transfer request states, “Absent significant new catastrophic events, DHS believes the resulting DRF Base balance is sufficient to support operational needs.”

House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) told Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan in a letter Tuesday that the department did not meet the transfer requirement of “extraordinary circumstances that imminently threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

“The Department of Homeland Security has urgent funding needs across its agencies, ranging from the procurement of Coast Guard assets to the improvement of the National Cybersecurity Protection System,” Roybal-Allard said in a statement, encouraging McAleenan “to work with me and my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to restore the partnership we once had in support of the department’s many important missions.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) warned that “taking money away from TSA and from FEMA in the middle of hurricane season could have deadly consequences.”

In January, President Trump was reportedly presented with the option of diverting disaster-relief funds to pay for border wall construction. “While the president has broad military authorities as the commander in chief when it comes to declaring a national emergency, I cannot and will not support reallocating funding we approved in a bipartisan effort in Congress for the recovery and reconstruction of Puerto Rico,” Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González said at the time.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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