Washington, DC, April 15, 2020 – President Trump is more focused on his political standing and his re-election prospects than on the once-in-a-lifetime global health crisis that should be his all-consuming focus. Trump and Stephen Miller have diverted billions of dollars from the nation’s readiness to prevent and respond to COVID-19 by funding immigration enforcement at the expense of FEMA and raiding National Guard funds to build the border wall.

FEMA decimated by budget cuts from preparedness to immigration enforcement

The Wall Street Journal, in a story by Rachael Levy and Michelle Hackman, titled, FEMA Joined Coronavirus Fight With Posts Unfilled and Parent Agency Shifting Funds to Immigration describes how FEMA has been gutted by Trump and Miller’s obsession with their immigration crackdown: 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the coordinator of the government’s coronavirus response, entered the crisis with thousands of unfilled positions and the leadership of its parent department singularly focused on immigration …[It’s] budget was cut by more than half, from $12.3 billion in 2018 to about $5.3 billion in 2019…Meanwhile, funding for DHS’s two main immigration enforcement agencies has grown, taking a larger share of the department’s budget.

… ‘President Trump, because of his outsized focus on the border, has essentially turned the Department of Homeland Security into the ‘Department of Immigration Enforcement,’’ said David Lapan, who served as the department’s spokesman under John Kelly, President Trump’s first Homeland Security secretary…‘Right now, it’s too late. FEMA can’t all of a sudden hire all of the people it needs,’ Mr. Lapan said. ‘You can’t catch up in the middle of a crisis.’

Trump’s border wall construction diverts funds away from COVID-19

The administration has allocated $18.4 billion for wall construction, most of it diverted from other federal agencies’ programs. Construction is ongoing, despite state-ordered shutdown rules. According to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, “More than 20 percent, $890 million, of the diverted taxpayer funds [have] been allocated to National Guard units across the country for the purchase of equipment critical to responding to natural disasters and other emergencies,” such as COVID-19. 

Gail Emrick, executive director of the Southeast Arizona Area Health Education Center, notes, “Wall construction money should instead be used to save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

In the service of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, President Trump and Stephen Miller have made their war on immigrants the beating heart of this administration. Gutting FEMA and cutting the National Guard in order to build a monument to Trump’s ego and aid his desperate attempt to cling to power is disgusting. Doing so at a time when tens of thousands of Americans are dying is unforgivable.

For these two, it’s not about our public health, it’s about their political survival. It’s not about saving our lives, it’s about mobilizing their voters. To get through the greatest threat to our people in a century, Americans need strong presidential leadership and a well-organized federal response. Tragically, we are getting neither.

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