13:34 GMT29 March 2020
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    The US Department of Homeland Security established on Wednesday the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office, in accordance with one of President Donald Trump’s January executive orders and as part of an attempt to crack down on undocumented immigrants. It manages a hotline for victims of crimes perpetrated by “criminal aliens.”

    Using the #AlienDay hashtag, immigration rights activists say they flooded the hotline with prank calls complaining of crimes being committed by aliens from outer space. 

    Alex McCoy from Common Defense, a progressive organization of US military veterans, wrote on Twitter Wednesday, "Wouldn't it be a shame if millions of people called this hotline to report their encounters with aliens of the UFO-variety."

    Another person wrote, "1-855-48-VOICE to report all your encounters w/ illegal martians, rude Sasquatch, unleashed Texas Blue Hounds, Springheel Jack. Goblin army."

    US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) criticized the action, with one official telling The Hill, "Their actions seek to obstruct and do harm to crime victims; that's objectively despicable regardless of one's views on immigration policy."

    After announcing the office’s launch, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called the hotline himself, accompanied by the families of victims of crime committed by undocumented immigrants, telling CNN, "All crime is terrible, but these victims as represented here are unique — and too often ignored … they are casualties of crimes that should never have taken place — because the people who victimized them oftentimes should never have been in the country." 

    Kelly said that before VOICE, victims of immigrant crime had nowhere to turn to file their complaints, often having to send letters and make calls "all over Washington."

    According to officials, the office will also cover the crimes of visa holders and legal permanent residents. The executive order called for quarterly reports "studying the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States."

    The VOICE page on the ICE website reads, "The men and women comprising the VOICE Office will be guided by a singular, straightforward mission – to ensure victims and their families have access to releasable information about a perpetrator and to offer assistance explaining the immigration removal process. ICE wants to ensure those victimized by criminal aliens feel heard, seen and supported." 

    In a statement, Common Defense executive Director Pam Campos called the office "a depraved and dangerous propaganda vehicle that exploits tragedy to fuel hate and division." She added, "Our commitment of service has no room for tolerating a xenophobic registry, which serves no purpose in helping victims of crime, and only exists to provide fodder for racism."

    A 2015 study by the American Immigration Council also seems to contradict the need for such an office, noting that immigrant mean aged 18 to 49 are much less likely to commit crime than their native-born counterparts.

    The study also suggested that lawmaker bias, rather than data, often factors heavily into policy and perception, saying, "Despite the abundance of evidence that immigration is not linked to higher crime rates, and that immigrants are less likely to be criminals than the native-born, many US policymakers succumb to their fears and prejudices about what they imagine immigrants to be. As a result, far too many immigration policies are drafted on the basis of stereotypes rather than substance."

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    Tags:
    hotline, immigration policy, Immigration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Kelly, Donald Trump, United States
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