Victims and Their Families Finally Get a VOICE

By Marguerite Telford on April 26, 2017

Shortly before President Trump's 100th day in office, the administration on Wednesday delivered on one more promise. With the two front rows full of family members of victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an office within the Department of Homeland Security, officially opened the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office. DHS Secretary Kelly introduced the acting director, Barbara Gonzalez, and spoke to the office's role as a liaison between ICE and the victims of crimes committed by removable aliens.

The President's January Executive Order, entitled "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States", called for the creation of this office. In response to the order, DHS Secretary Kelly issued a memo stating that "The liaison will facilitate engagement with the victims and their families to ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that they are provided information about the offender, including the offender's immigration status and custody status, and that their questions and concerns regarding immigration enforcement efforts are addressed."

The office's new website displays VOICE's mission – "to ensure victims and their families have access to releasable information about a perpetrator and to offer assistance explaining the immigration removal process." The website also provides the toll-free VOICE Hotline for victims to call to have their questions answered – 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.

Secretary Kelly made it clear that these victims and their family members are unique. "They are casualties of crimes that should have never taken place, because the people who victimized them often times should not have been in the country in the first place." Some critics have said that the office's creation purposely stokes Americans' fear of immigrants or labels immigrants as bad or paints all immigrants as criminals. But the people VOICE is designed to help have suffered a tremendous loss or injury because their government did not do its job, did not enforce the laws on the books. These individuals are deserving of help from their government, which let them down. Moreover, unlike typical victims, these families have to understand and follow the immigration system, including status, custody, removal process, etc. Who better to help them through this complicated process than ICE? (The Department of Justice has an Office for Victims of Crime, but it cannot match ICE's expertise regarding the immigration and deportation system.) They must know they are safe and they must know that justice has been served, so they can in some small way get on with their lives.

The Executive Order called for quarterly reports to be published on the impact of victimization in American communities. It was confirmed Wednesday that VOICE will be capturing metrics and sharing this information with the appropriate stakeholders.

Secretary Kelly had already ordered in his February memo that ICE reallocate all resources that were previously allocated to advocate on behalf of illegal aliens. In 2012, the Obama administration created and funded a Public Advocate Office within ICE. A year later they established a hotline for illegal aliens "to vent about their treatment by border patrol agents requiring a staff of 208 who spent over 85,000 hours working on the complaints" at the cost to taxpayers of an estimated $15 million over a 20-month period.

Secretary Kelly restated President Trump's words from his first visit to DHS to re-assure the audience that the era of the forgotten victim has ended: "We hear you. We see you. You will never ever be ignored again."