Heading into Labor Day weekend, Category 4 Hurricane Dorian was slated to bring severe, sustained wind, rain and storm surge to the Bahamas and Florida before making landfall in Georgia and the Carolinas. In anticipation of the devastating storm, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Georgia governor Brian Kemp, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper, and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster each declared states of emergency, while Bahamas’ Prime Minister Hubert Minnis urged imperiled residents to evacuate and take shelter. Hurricane Dorian’s purported strength and trajectory merit great cause for concern - for some of us, that is.
Yes, in a bout of exceptionally poor timing, President Trump has taken steps to ensure that disaster relief becomes less prioritized. On Aug. 27, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) revealed that they’ll shift $271 million - including $155 million from FEMA’s disaster relief fund - toward strengthening U.S.-Mexico border security. Specifically, they aim “to support new Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds as well as facilities for related court cases.” As if this isn’t drastic enough, “the Trump administration is transferring another $24 million away from the U.S. Coast Guard, $24 million from the Transportation Security Administration and more than $4 million from the newly-established Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.” Sure, FEMA claims that alongside preserving $27 billion for ongoing recovery efforts, “its disaster relief fund will still have $447 million remaining in its base account.” But this plan should still set off our internal alarm bells, for it shows indifference toward our environmental crisis, support of dehumanizing practices, and a complete abuse of power.
Hurricane Dorian and other storms of its ilk illustrate the clear and present dangers facing our environment. A 2018 study found that “in the past 70 years, tropical cyclones around the world have slowed down 10 percent.” Slow-moving storms - like Hurricanes Harvey, Florence and now Dorian - have the potential to deliver more precipitation. Warm ocean water only heightens this risk, and our oceans’ surface temperature continues to rise. Although Trump has granted FEMA the obligatory authorization to provide resources to states affected by this storm, concern for future natural disaster prevention and relief persists. His penchant to dismiss climate change as a hoax, alongside this recent diversion of funds, doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Even if you don’t believe in climate change, this course of action should concern you. For starters, it advances the Trump administration’s already-extremist immigration agenda. DHS has defended the move, arguing that “without additional funding for single adult detention beds and transportation from the U.S. Border Patrol to ICE detention facilities, ICE will not be able to support the influx of migrants from U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehensions.” Although DHS considers said influx of migrants a “humanitarian crisis,” several U.S. congressmen and women have condemned the agency’s inhumane practices. And for good reason: After all, I’ve never taken pleasure from locking any of my dogs inside a cage, let alone a human (unless you consider a younger me who had the time of his life crawling inside one, but I digress). Couple this with greater vulnerability to natural disasters, and it appears that our federal government couldn’t care less for our safety.
And how ironic it is that an administration so focused on border security oversteps its bounds by attempting to override Congress’s appropriation of funds! California representative Lucille Roybal-Allard cites “a growing disconnect between the will of Congress, as represented by ICE funding levels in enacted appropriations bills signed by the President, and the Department's Immigration enforcement operations, which often lack justification.” Yes, border security is critical to some extent, but it’s downright reckless for our federal government, without our consent, to avert its attention and resources from other urgencies - like Hurricane Dorian’s descent - in favor of excessive, unpopular practices.
So to the Trump administration: If you keep pouring on such ignorance and cruelty and sheltering yourselves from this country’s true epidemics, then America collectively may suffer a Category 5 meltdown from which it can’t recover.
Michael Katz is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.