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  • Asylum seekers line up for a meal provided by volunteers in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, August 24, 2019.

    Asylum seekers line up for a meal provided by volunteers in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, August 24, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 August 2019
Opinion

Resources from the federal disaster relief fund will be used to support the "Stay in Mexico" policy.

The U.S. Government announced Tuesday the transfer of US$155 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to its program to return asylum-seekers back to Mexico.

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This amount is a part of the US$271 million that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will transfer from some of its agencies to bolster Trump's immigration and border strategy.

A sum of US$116 million will be earmarked to increase the number of adult beds in detention centers run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has currently around 55,000 people in its custody.

The US$155 million will serve to establish temporary immigration hearing facilities along the Southwest border, for the Migrant Protection Policy – commonly referred to as the "Remain in Mexico” policy – under which the U.S. authorities send migrants back to the neighboring country while their cases are resolved.

The funneling of disaster relief resources coincides with the passage of tropical storm Dorian through Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island which was severely affected by cyclones Maria and Irma in 2017.

The transfer of these DHS funds, which were originally approved by Congress, was criticized by the Democrats.

"The Trump administration’s plan to divert money away from FEMA at the start of hurricane season to continue its efforts to separate and jail migrant families is backward & cruel," Senator Chuck Schumer tweeted.

"Taking these critical funds from disaster preparedness & recovery efforts threatens lives & weakens the government’s ability to help Americans in the wake of natural disasters," he added.

According to U.S. authorities, however, disaster relief operations will not be affected, for FEMA has an annual budget of more than US$18 billion​​​​​​, which is an amount "sufficient to support operational needs and will not impact ongoing long-term recovery efforts across the country".

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