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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Internal memo raises concerns about DHS funds transfer

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau may have violated federal funding regulations when it transferred employees and funds to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, its sister agency in the Homeland Security Department, for a detainee transportation program, according to an internal ICE document obtained by Government Executive.

A February 2006 memorandum from ICE field managers to Julie Myers, the head of the bureau, and John Torres, then-acting director of ICE's Office of Detention and Removal Operations, expressed concern that the agency broke the law in its haste to provide CBP's Border Patrol with the transportation services. An ICE official testified last month that the bureau shifted $50 million worth of resources, including employees, to CBP in fiscal 2006 for the services.

"Legally, there is a concern... that ICE [employees who] provide transportation services to CBP without reimbursement for such services is an improper augmentation of CBP's appropriations," the Feb. 2 memorandum stated. "Nonreimbursable details constitute an improper augmentation of the receiving agency's appropriations and conflict with the principles of federal appropriations law."

The ICE document cited a federal law stating: "Appropriations shall be applied only to the objects for which the appropriations were made except as otherwise provided by law."

A staffer for the House Appropriations Committee, provided with the documents Government Executive obtained, said "a reasonable reading" of the February memo would lead to the conclusion that ICE's fund switch violated the Anti-Deficiency Act.

In testimony on Nov. 27, 2006, as part of an arbitration case in which ICE was involved, an ICE official stated that the agency transferred the $50 million to CBP's Border Patrol for detainee transports, but said he did not know doing so violated federal appropriations law.

The House Appropriations Committee source said the funding switch could result in sanctions against ICE or the Homeland Security Department. The source said there's a possibility CBP might end up having to reimburse ICE for the resources used.

-Jonathan Marino, GovExec.com

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