There was no surprise when ICE unveiled the nuts and bolts of its insufferably-named “Victims of Immigration Crimes Engagement” office, or VOICE. During his address to Congress, President Trump said he had ordered DHS “to create an office to serve American victims”* of the undocumented. DHS Secretary John Kelly alluded to it in a memorandum that was released about a month afterwards.
But now that its plan for the victims has been laid out in full, its contents are just as generic, and effective at murdering words, as the President’s previous statements and Executive Orders. Let’s start with what’s listed under the subheading “what services are available to me as a crime victim through VOICE:”
VOICE will afford victims and their loved ones a single point of contact to obtain information regarding criminal aliens in ICE custody. That could include getting automated custody status information, getting additional releasable case history about the perpetrator, or having an ICE representative explain the immigration enforcement and removal process.
Automated custody status information? That’s already in place. DHS has an online inmate locator system, where any primate can go online and find out where the person’s being detained. There’s even an 800 number that someone, equipped with the culprit’s alien number, can check the status of his case in immigration court. But ICE failed to even mention that basic tidbit.
Additional releasable case history about the perpetrator? Guess the formidable folks at VOICE will guide victims as they go through public online court dockets. ICE representative will explain the immigration enforcement and removal process? Are these people (lawyers, JDs, or someone who took a crash course?) going to be capable of explaining, over the phone, the intricacies of the process that involves detaining, holding, and deporting individuals?
Will they be able to explain the uncertainty that ensues when the criminal rubber hits the immigration road? If so, immigration law practitioners may want to start looking for jobs at Dairy Queen Taco Bell.
Moving backwards, VOICE’s objectives are listed as such:
- Use a victim-centered approach to acknowledge and support immigration crime victims and their families.
- Promote awareness of rights and services available to immigration crime victims.
- Build collaborative partnerships with community stakeholders assisting immigration crime victims.
- Provide quarterly reports studying the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States.
Now, a moment of silence for all those slaughtered words, as Orwell does somersaults in his grave. “Victim-centered approach?” “Promote awareness of rights?” “Collaborative partnerships?” This is all meaningless babble. No detailed plan, just a bunch of “feel good” words strung together incoherently. So far, the only ones hearing the victims’ voices will be the talentless saps that will run the call centers.
At best, this is a lame attempt at a tummy rub, which will only reach the dumb or the terminally misinformed. As it is, this VOICE project is, as Glenn Greenwald put it, “dangerous and disgusting. And exploitative beyond relief.” At worst, it will make people dumber and put people’s lives in danger. All this talk about informing about the inmate’s whereabouts can lead to some of the crazies thinking they can go on a lynching expedition at an immigration jail, where they will be met by people with guns.
Notice what was absent from the VOICE website? A blueprint for making victims “whole”: giving them counseling, cash, or having their voices heard in court. I doubt that whoever drafted the VOICE plan realized that the criminal courts and prosecutors are the ones, for better or worse, who try to do those things for the victims. So was it probably an omission due to misinformation. Or perhaps they’re just cheap.
In any event, victims are not heard in immigration court or by ICE, as any “sentencing” has already been done in the criminal courts, and there are no victim impact statements in immigrationland. If you lose in immigration court, the only sentence is an order saying “you’re outta here,” notwithstanding any cries for “justice” coming from anyone.
Like deportation proceedings, the debate over victims’ rights is complex stuff. It’s usually those who’ve spent time in the trenches who can shed some light on what may improve the state of affairs, and what can make it worse.
The content of the VOICE website is an oversimplified and misguided version of what happens on the ground. Its approach to the law and the dynamics of deportation is arrogant and dangerous. But its self-righteous and self-pitying approach to victims is what makes this tripe all the worse, because it may leave victims worse off than they were in the first place.
*He followed that by saying, “we are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.” That statement is removed from reality: undocumented immigrants who commit crimes are usually given an extra dose of smear by the media, and those without status don’t have “special interests” who serve them by silencing their victims.