President Donald Trump‘s administration and top Democrats have been trading barbs over the president’s decision to move funding away from federal projects to fund the situation at the southern border.
While the White House has the authority to reappropriate some funds, Trump’s decision to move money away from programs, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has been highly criticized, especially as Hurricane Dorian makes its way toward the U.S.
Hurricane Dorian may be a pressing problem facing the country, but the crisis at the border also demands attention and resources. Here are 5 things to know about the situation and the drama behind Trump’s decision:
Two crises are happening at the same time.
Although Hurricane Dorian is not expected to be as damaging as originally expected, the strong storm is still expected to bring high winds and flooding to much of the east coast. This headline-grabbing storm will leave many Americans displaced and in need of assistance, but it is not the only humanitarian issue the U.S. is facing.
Throughout the first half of 2019, migrants from Central America have been traveling north to escape poverty and violence by attempting to earn asylum in the United States. As IJR reported at the time, more migrants arrived at the southern border in the first half of the fiscal year 2019 than in all of the fiscal year 2018 with most of the migrants being family units with young children.
This crisis drained the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of the resources needed to provide housing, food, and medical care to migrants waiting for their asylum hearing.
Trump reallocated funds from several departments to the border.
According to a report from NBC, the Trump administration reallocated $271 million in DHS funding to pay for additional detention facilities and temporary hearing locations for those applying for asylum into the United States from Mexico’s southern border.
Of the $271 million, $155 million will come from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund.
DHS notified Congress of the reallocation, but acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan said that “no money has actually been moved at this point” in an interview with “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
FEMA is responsible for the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
Although McAleenan claims the funds have not been moved yet, many have questioned the decision to strip funding from FEMA as hurricane season begins with Dorian set to hit this week.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the move “stunningly reckless.”
.@realDonaldTrump’s brazen theft of disaster relief funding to pay for an inhumane family incarceration plan is cruel — and doing so on the eve of hurricane season is stunningly reckless. https://t.co/7di5JQZP5K
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 28, 2019
“[Trump’s] brazen theft of disaster relief funding to pay for an inhumane family incarceration plan is cruel — and doing so on the eve of hurricane season is stunningly reckless,” Pelosi wrote.
The administration claims they are prepared to fund both operations.
Despite the warnings from Pelosi, the Trump administration maintains that they are prepared to handle both crises.
McAleenan told CBS “unequivocally” that FEMA is prepared to handle hurricane season. He claimed that Pelosi was “uninformed” about the situation, saying, “We believe we have fully adequate funding and no money has actually been moved at this point, to begin with. So she’s not informed.”
He also attempted to pin the blame on Pelosi, noting that DHS officials from Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement had been asking for increased funding for months prior to receiving the emergency supplemental funding in June.
“This is money that we asked for that we didn’t receive and so we’ve identified sources across the department to help backfill that and we’re going to monitor that very carefully,” said McAleenan. “We’ve got to manage two crises at the same time. And again, we have plenty of funding in the disaster recovery fund.”
Other projects have been impacted by funding reallocation, as well.
While FEMA may be the most talked-about agency to have some funding pulled, several other projects have been put on hold as well. As IJR previously reported, more than 120 military projects have had funding pulled as a result of border funding reallocations.
President Trump moved $3.6 billion from the Defense Department to begin construction of a southern border wall. As a result, $1.8 billion in construction for military projects outside the U.S. were put on hold while the other half stalled military projects within the country.
Senators from both parties, including Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), have pushed back on Trump’s decision after multi-million dollar projects were put on hold in their home states.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said that funding decisions were based on the department’s national defense strategy, saying, “Department of Defense components and military departments provided input and prioritized projects based on effects on readiness and consistency with the national defense strategy.”
Democrats, however, have been outraged by the decision. According to an aide, Pelosi likened Trump’s actions to theft, reportedly saying, “My view of it is that stealing money from military construction, at home and abroad, will undermine our national security, quality of life and morale of our troops, and that indeed makes America less safe.”
While Pelosi may believe it is theft for Trump to pull from these projects, she hasn’t offered alternatives at the border. During the 2018 government shutdown, Pelosi said she’d only allocate one dollar to a border wall and was reluctant to approve the emergency humanitarian aid to the border, even after it became clear funding would be exclusively used to provide for migrants instead of building a wall.
As Hurricane Dorian remains unpredictable, it is unclear how the administration’s decisions will impact the FEMA’s response.