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Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley released a statement that the Trump administration transferred nearly $10 million in disaster relief funds to help fund “zero tolerance” immigration policies.

Merkley said the administration transferred $9.8 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's "response and recovery" to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. News of the transfer comes as Hurricane Florence hits the Carolinas.

“This is a scandal. At the start of hurricane season — when American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still suffering from FEMA’s inadequate recovery efforts — the administration transferred millions of dollars away from FEMA,” Merkley said.

The transfer was found in a 39-page Department of Homeland Security transfer and reprogramming report from the end of August.

Page 30 or the report shows funds being transferred from FEMA’s "operations and support" budget to ICE funds that pay for detention beds, transportation and removals.

“It wasn’t enough to rip thousands of children out of the arms of their parents—the administration chose to partly pay for this horrific program by taking away from the ability to respond to damage from this year’s upcoming and potentially devastating hurricane season.” Merkley said.

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Homeland Security officials quickly defended themselves by issuing a statement that said the money that was transferred would have zero impact on response and recovery this hurricane season.

“As we’re looking at another intense hurricane heading toward the East Coast, Senator Merkley is certainly worried about the president taking money from those disaster response and relief funds in order to pay for ICE operations,” Merkley’s spokesperson Sara Hottman said.

Merkley has been a large opponent of the Trump administrations “zero tolerance” immigration policy, and came across the funds transfer when researching child separation at the border.

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.

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