Aug 27, 2019

Trump reallocates $155 million from FEMA disaster relief to fund ICE

Families at the U.S. Border Patrol McAllen Station on June 10 in McAllen, Texas. Photo: Office of Inspector General/Department of Homeland Security via Getty Images

The Trump administration is reallocating $271 million from the Department of Homeland Security's budget, which includes FEMA, "to pay for immigration detention space and temporary hearing locations for asylum-seekers" made to wait in Mexico, NBC reports.

The big picture, via Axios' Stef Kight: The number of immigrants arrested or turned away at the southern border had been steadily climbing to records not seen before, but has been falling for the last 2 months in a row. Prior to her resignation, former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the U.S. immigration system had "come to the point of a system-wide breakdown" in March.

By the numbers: This new $271 million in funding "would allow ICE to detain nearly 50,000 immigrants at one time," per NBC.

  • $155 million of ICE's new funding will come from FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund, according to a letter sent to DHS by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.).
  • The other $116 million will come from funds earmarked for areas like Coast Guard operations and aviation security. It will finance almost 6,800 extra beds for detained immigrants.

Flashback: The Trump administration took $9.7 million out of FEMA's budget in 2018 to support ICE and help the agency fund more detention center beds and detain immigrants.

What they're saying: A FEMA spokesperson said that the transfer will leave $447 million in the Disaster Relief Fund, which a review determined "will be sufficient to support operational needs and will not impact ongoing long-term recovery efforts across the country."

  • FEMA added that the Disaster Relief Fund Majors account, "which provides funding for ongoing recovery efforts, including those supporting communities impacted by the 2017 disasters, has a current balance of approximately $27 billion and is not impacted by the reprogramming."

Go deeper ... Exclusive: DHS data shows growing surge of migrants at the border

Editor's note: This piece has been updated to include a statement from a FEMA spokesperson.

Go deeper

CNN crew arrested live on air while reporting on Minneapolis protests

CNN's Omar Jimenez and his crew were arrested Friday by Minneapolis state police while reporting on the protests that followed the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in the city.

What happened: CNN anchors said Jimenez and his crew were arrested for not moving after being told to by police, though the live footage prior to their arrests clearly shows Jimenez talking calmly with police and offering to move wherever necessary.

First look: Trump courts Asian American vote amid coronavirus

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The president's re-election campaign debuts its "Asian Americans for Trump" initiative in a virtual event tonight, courting a slice of the nation's electorate that has experienced a surge in racism and harassment since the pandemic began.

The big question: How receptive will Asian American voters be in this moment? Trump has stoked xenophobia by labeling COVID-19 the "Chinese virus" and the "Wuhan virus" and equating Chinatowns in American cities to China itself.

How the U.S. might distribute a coronavirus vaccine

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Now that there are glimmers of hope for a coronavirus vaccine, governments, NGOs and others are hashing out plans for how vaccines could be distributed once they are available — and deciding who will get them first.

Why it matters: Potential game-changer vaccines will be sought after by everyone from global powers to local providers. After securing supplies, part of America's plan is to tap into its military know-how to distribute those COVID-19 vaccines.