The Biden administration has dismantled a Trump-era government office to help victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants, replacing it with an “inclusive support system for all victims, regardless of immigration status or the immigration status of the perpetrator.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on June 11 announced the launch of the Victims Engagement and Services Line, noting in a statement that the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office that then-President Donald Trump established in 2017 “is terminated.”
“Providing assistance to society’s most vulnerable is a core American value. All people, regardless of their immigration status, should be able to access victim services without fear,” Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. “This administration is committed to providing a reliable source of information and guidance for all victims irrespective of their status.”
Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson said people who contact the new office for help won’t be asked about their immigration status.
The new office adds a service for potential recipients of T-visas, which are designated for victims of human trafficking, and U-visas, which are meant for victims of violent crimes in the United States.
Calling the new office a “streamlined and all-encompassing access point for all victims,” ICE said in the statement that one of the services it provides is the Detention Reporting and Information Line, which provides victims the ability to report incidents of sexual or physical assault, abuse, or mistreatment while in ICE detention.
Stephen Miller, a key architect of Trump’s immigration policies, called the decision to close VOICE a “moral stain on the conscience of our nation.” He compared the new office to the Drug Enforcement Administration opening “a call center to help drug dealers get lawyers and amnesty for their crimes.”
While many studies suggest immigrants—legal or otherwise—are less likely to commit crimes than native-born people, advocates of policies that are tough on illegal immigration have argued that even a single crime committed by someone who entered the country unlawfully is too much and was enabled by lax border security.
“I’ve had to hold the hand of too many mothers who lost a child to a DUI or somebody else who’s been raped by an illegal alien or someone with a nexus to immigration,” Barbara Gonzalez, then-director of VOICE, told reporters in October 2019. “It is a problem we cannot ignore as a country.
Republicans have argued that Trump’s policies and messaging were effective at discouraging illegal immigration, and that the Biden administration’s rollback of some of them has led to a record-high surge in the number of people crossing the southern border illegally.
A recent U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) report showed that the agency apprehended 180,034 individuals illegally entering the United States in May, the highest monthly tally in 21 years.
Besides repealing some Trump-era immigration policies, the Biden administration has also sought to soften its tone. In April, the Biden administration ordered ICE and CBP to stop using terms such as “illegal alien” and instead use the phrase “undocumented noncitizen.”
Biden proposed removing the term “alien” from federal immigration laws in a citizenship bill he sent to Congress on Jan. 20, his first day as president, according to the White House.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.