But that's a drop in the bucket.
The Trump administration appears to have diverted almost $10 million in funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency at the forefront of the president's zero-tolerance immigration policy that led to the separation of hundreds of children, some as young as 18 months, from their parents.
Merkley rejected DHS's claim in an appearance on "The Rachel Maddow Show" Tuesday night, noting that the budget document he obtained shows the "money came from response and recovery".
"ICE must have sufficient detention bed capacity to detain illegal aliens when necessary as it enforces the Nation's immigration laws as fairly and effectively as possible", the budget document states.
The Trump administration has taken about $10 million away from the Federal Emergency Management Administration and given it to immigration authorities, documents of the plan show.
The transfer to ICE is an especially sore point with Democrats, who have been battling the administration on the detention and forced separation of immigrant families crossing the border.
FEMA receives more than $16 billion in funding each year, about twice the funding earmarked for ICE.
"It takes more than FEMA to respond to storms of this magnitude", FEMA Administrator Brock Long said in a statement Tuesday. Instead, it was money from an administrative account, and there is $25.6 billion in FEMA Disaster Relief Fund. "DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs", said FEMA spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton.More news: Hurricane Florence leaves hundreds of thousands without power in North Carolina
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The department then must notify the chairs of the relevant congressional appropriations subcommittees, who must approve.
House lawmakers were told about the decision to make the payment in late July.
"It does not come out of the disaster relief fund that funds everything behind me and in the field, so it's a non-issue for us at this moment", Long told ABC News. ICE only has roughly 40,000 spots in detention, meaning it can not possibly detain every undocumented immigrant in the US.
It is true that Congress sets funding levels for all parts of government through the appropriations process.
In the request, immigration officials said they need the extra money to cover rising costs associated with arrests and deportations. It was made public by Democratic Sen. We shouldn't be diverting into other accounts. Since Republicans control Congress, that didn't matter. But that is still less than 1% of its overall operations budget.
Similar language is popping up in this year's appropriations bills.
"This is yet another example of the Trump Administration's outrageously misplaced homeland security priorities", said Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of MS, ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security.
Small says that her group is "on the Hill screaming about this" to encourage Congress to break the pattern.