On Wednesday, with his 100th day in office drawing near, President Trump made official the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office. The office is dedicated to finding illegal immigrants who commit crimes. But how does VOICE work, exactly? It could definitely be harmful for immigrant families, and actually tear them apart.
As the Trump administration thrives on sensationalizing crimes committed by illegal immigrants, and the threat of "the wall" still looms, the official formation of VOICE isn't exactly surprising. But despite the Pew Research Center's finding that, "the number of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. illegally has declined by more than 1 million since 2007," the Trump administration has made illegal immigration a top priority. Trump himself has spewed many "alternative facts," about illegal immigrants via Twitter, and his pundits have been loyally using scare tactics to form unfounded opinions about illegal immigrants, and the alleged crimes they commit.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly spoke about the new office at a press conference on Wednesday, saying,
All crime is terrible, but these victims as represented here are unique, and they are all too often ignored. They are casualties of crimes that should never have taken place because the people who victimized them should never have been here in our country. These crimes, in many ways, were preventable.
However, as critics have pointed out, VOICE is basically a legal form of systematic racism, though it's arguably not intended as such. Forming an entire office dedicated to sussing out illegal immigrants who are accused of alleged crimes is just an example of "us v. them" mentality, and that in itself is troubling, especially coming from the White House.
As far as VOICE's impact on families, the potential damage is serious. Basically, VOICE makes it easier for undocumented immigrants to be reported, charged, and deported. And as so many immigrants are already targeted by the system and put in jail for minor crimes at an exorbitantly high rate, VOICE only serves to exacerbate the problem for these immigrants, even if they have family members who are in America legally. To put it bluntly, families of immigrants are at a higher risk of being separated because of VOICE, and its involvement with ICE.
The problems don't stop there: While, of course, victims of any crime deserve the right to seek justice, the emphasis being put on only victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants is a problem. Why can't victims of sexual assault or abuse be granted access to see their attacker's criminal history? Why not victims affected by white collar crime? And as reports indicate that immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes, why is so much time, money, and effort being put into shining a spotlight on those that do?
VOICE is the latest example of the Trump administration seeking to demoralize those different than Trump's key demographic. These scare tactics only seek to divide us, and that's not okay.