"I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims," Trump said, eliciting gasps. "The office is called VOICE—Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests."
Trump's VOICE office announcement was met by audible groans pic.twitter.com/Zr600GZe09
— VICE News (@vicenews) March 1, 2017
The dismay wasn't limited to those in the chamber; outrage—and fear—rang out online, as well.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) March 1, 2017
With the creation of #VOICE , Trump continues his nativist demonization of the immigrant community. Dangerous. Baseless. Shameful.
— León Krauze (@LeonKrauze) March 1, 2017
Trump to create 'Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement' (VOICE). This is a blatant attempt to humiliate and scare immigrants. #JointSession
— antonio (@antoniodelotero) March 1, 2017
— Anita Diversity (@AnitaDiversity) March 1, 2017
Wow VOICE is racist propaganda and how genocides begin. #Jointsession
— Tina Dupuy (@TinaDupuy) March 1, 2017
Here's Trump's message of division: If a crime is committed, zero in on whether perpetuator is an immigrant. Ignore all other factors. #SOTU
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) March 1, 2017
Trump announced he's creating the office of Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement -creating an institution out of his lies about immigrants.
— Advancement Project (@adv_project) March 1, 2017
ThinkProgress reported last week that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly signed off on the creation of the new office in a memo entitled "Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest."
"I am establishing the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office within the Office of the Director of ICE, which will create a programmatic liaison between ICE and the known victims of crimes committed by removable aliens," Kelly wrote. "To that end, I direct the Director of ICE to immediately reallocate any and all resources that are currently used to advocate on behalf of illegal aliens to the new VOICE Office, and to immediately terminate the provision of such outreach or advocacy services to illegal aliens."
An executive order from Trump, signed in late January, also instructed DHS to "make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens."
Writing at The Atlantic on Wednesday, Peter Beinart noted that statistics on immigrant crime don't support Trump's actions. "As far as researchers can tell, unauthorized immigrants commit crimes [pdf] at a lower rate than the American population at large," he reported.
As such, Beinart wrote, "if Trump's goal is increasing public safety, publishing a list of crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants is irrational. It's like publishing a list of crimes committed by people with red-hair."
"If, however, Trump's goal is stigmatizing a vulnerable class of people," he continued, "then publicizing their crimes—and their crimes alone—makes sense. It's been a tactic bigots have used more than a century."
Further underscoring the administration's xenophobic campaign (despite claims that he struck a "softer tone" during the Joint Address), Trump invited families of people killed by undocumented immigrants as his personal guests to Tuesday night's speech. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that by doing so, Trump was "stirring up fear and hatred against immigrants and trying to divide our nation."
"Trump, any murder is a tragedy," Sanders wrote in a Facebook post ahead of the speech. "Don't use these tragedies to stir up divisions by race and nationality."