The establishment of the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE) — which will assist victims of crimes committed by criminal aliens – under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was announced today by DHS Secretary John F. Kelly.
DHS said, “ICE built the VOICE office in response” to President Trump’s Executive Order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, which directed DHS to create an office to support victims of crimes committed by criminal aliens.
“All crime is terrible, but these victims are unique—and too often ignored,” Kelly said, adding, “They are casualties of crimes that should never have taken place—because the people who victimized them often times should not have been in the country in the first place.”
The key objectives of the VOICE office are: Use a victim-centered approach to acknowledge and support victims and their families; promote awareness of available services to crime victims; and build collaborative partnerships with community stakeholders assisting victims.
ICE has established a toll-free hotline staffed with operators who will triage calls to ensure victims receive the support they need. The number is 1-855-48-VOICE or 1-855-488-6423.
The types of assistance people impacted by crimes committed by illegal aliens can expect include:
- Localcontacts to help with unique victim requests.
- ICE community relations officers will serve as a local representative explaining to victims what information is available and to help victims understand the immigration enforcement and removal process.
- Access to social service professionals able to refer victims to resources and service providers.
- ICE has a cadre of 27 victim assistance specialists located across the country available to direct victims to a wide range of resources. The victim assistance specialists possess a high degree of specialized victim assistance expertise and training.
- Assistance signing-up to receive automated custody status information.
The DHS-Victim Information and Notification Exchange (DHS-VINE) is an automated service that will help victims track the immigration custody status of illegal alien perpetrators of crime. More information about DHS-VINE and how to sign-up to receive automated alerts can be found at: https://vinelink.dhs.gov.
Additional criminal or immigration history may be available about an illegal alien to victims or their families, DHS said.
ICE will also work with requesting individuals to determine what releasable information is available to victims about an alien involved in a crime.
DHS said, “ICE is employing a measured approach to building the VOICE office—meaning that it intends to expand the services VOICE offers in the future. This approach allows the office to provide immediate services to victims, but will also allow the agency to collect metrics and information to determine additional resource needs and how the office can best serve victims and their families moving forward.”
“Decades of lax enforcement have wreaked havoc on American communities and innocent Americans from coast to coast have lost their lives at the hands of unlawful immigrants. Several of these victims’ family members have testified before the House Judiciary Committee and have spoken out about how the lack of enforcement has devastated their families. Under the Obama administration, these victims’ voices were not acknowledged,” responded House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).
“President Trump and his administration are reversing many of the Obama administration’s disastrous immigration policies and are consistently enforcing the law,” Goodlatte stated. “And through the creation of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, the Trump administration is committed to providing accurate and timely information to victims as their perpetrators face justice and are removed from the United States.”
He commended the administration “for their commitment to helping victims of crimes committed by removable aliens and for giving them a voice in their government.”
Goodlatte’s office said, “the House Judiciary Committee has highlighted how illegal immigration is not a victimless crime and has repeatedly sought information on unlawful immigrants who have committed crimes in the United States. On April 19, 2016, two moms whose children were murdered by unlawful immigrants testified before the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee. They also spoke out in a video, calling for more immigration enforcement to protect Americans.”
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said VOICE “perpetuates fear of immigrants.”
“The establishment of this office sends a message that the Trump administration is fixated on continuing to stir fear of immigrants while spreading myths about undocumented immigrants and crime. Looking at the facts, it is clear that there is no epidemic of immigrant crime that the President all too often asserts,” Thompson said. “While the President is desperate for something show for his first 100 days, inserting this propaganda and prejudice into our nation’s homeland security policy is a move that history will not look kindly on.”
“Instead of protecting our skies, waters and borders from foreign and domestic threats, Department of Homeland Security resources will now be used for a new office to single out immigrants as criminals and broadcast its findings on repeat,” he added. “Doing this not only ignores the vast majority of the crime, but stokes racist and xenophobic fears while dividing the country."