The Trump administration on Wednesday opened an office dedicated to helping victims of crimes committed by immigrants — an initiative criticized as misguided because studies have shown immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens.
The Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement, or VOICE, will keep victims informed of the immigration proceedings of suspects and generally walk them through the complicated and often drawn-out immigration court process. It will be staffed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees.
"The name fits; we are giving ... for the first time a voice of their own to these victims," Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said as he briefly described the office to reporters and some relatives of victims. He said victims of immigrant crimes have historically been ignored by the federal government and left without answers about a suspect's immigration proceedings.
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The rollout comes as Trump approaches the 100-day marker of his presidency and has faced setbacks on his top immigration proposals, which were the core of his campaign. Courts have blocked orders temporarily barring the admission of refugees and visitors from six Muslim-majority nations. Preliminary efforts to fund a border wall have encountered obstacles in Congress.
Trump announced the office in a speech to Congress in February and included it in an executive order aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.
Immigration advocates in California, including the American Civil Liberties Union, described the effort as "fear-mongering." While a number of violent crimes by immigrants in the U.S. illegally have received widespread attention, they occur less frequently than crimes committed by U.S. citizens.
It's unclear how much information ICE will be able to provide to crime victims given privacy protections afforded to immigrants depending on the nature of their immigration status and the details of their case.