Tyler Houlton, a spokesman for Homeland Security, FEMA's parent agency, referred questions to the inspector general's office, which didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Those requests are not generally not made public.
Other DHS operations also saw their budgets cut to cover detention and deportation costs, according to the document released by Merkley. Jeff Merkley, of OR, shows that the money would come from FEMA's operations and support budget and was transferred into accounts at ICE to pay for detention and removal operations.
Merkley says the money was for an expansion including "more detention centers".
Merkely said he believes the budgeting reallocation happened in response to the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy, which was rolled out earlier this year.
Merkley contradicted the spokesperson's defense, saying that the documents list the money as coming from FEMA's "response and recovery" line, and he added that the decision seems especially misguided as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolina coast.
It's interesting you say that because it turns out the money has been transferred not just from FEMA.
DHS argues in the document that the impact on FEMA will be "minimal". ICE is an agency within that department, as is FEMA.
DHS confirmed the money was transferred but tried to claim it wouldn't hurt relief efforts this year. Without the transfer, the document notes, "ICE will not be able to fulfill its adult detention requirements in FY 2018".
These new limitations, the department warns, "would pose a significant risk to public safety and national security by permitting known offenders to remain at large".
The department then must notify the chairs of the relevant congressional appropriations subcommittees, who must approve.
"It means that just as hurricane season is starting.the administration is working hard to find funds for child detention camps".
But Merkley did concede that the transfer of funds was legal.
Considering they chose to start putting children in cages right around that time, clearly this was where the money went.
It's unclear when the funds were transferred.
The transfers benefitted ICE's detention and removal operations, NBC News reported, and documents given to Congress specifically mentioned ICE's going millions over-budget in its effort to expand the capacity of its detention centers. Homeland Security officials said the account supports FEMA headquarters operational expenses and can not be used for disaster response.
Moira Whelan, a former DHS official, told The Washington Post that Houlton was "parsing words", because money outside the Disaster Relief Fund is still used to prepare for disasters and improve the response to them.
Over the previous year there have been questions about whether FEMA's resources are stretched thin as it responds to hurricanes and that's why that almost $10 million is getting a lot of attention, reports CBS News' Jeff Pegues.
"As an overall, the meeting was long on excuses and on misrepresentations and short on information and solutions ... one thing we do know, they are taking 1% of every DHS department and putting that towards family detention and family separation", Gallego said. "Nothing that the staffer talked about indicated that this used to be done in a roundabout diagram as a TV stunt". Thom Tillis of North Carolina said in an interview Wednesday.
"We have plenty of resources to respond, we have plenty of resources to recover. Everybody is ready", Trump said in brief remarks at Joint Base Andrews. "We are sparing no expense".
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last fall, leaving 2,975 people dead and the island without fresh, running water and no electricity for 11 months.