President Trump gave an unprecedented voice to victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants, creating an office in ICE to highlight their plight.
The Biden administration on Friday announced a new policy to expand the office’s purview in a way that victims say drowns out their voice.
What Mr. Trump dubbed the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE) is now being changed to the Victims Engagement and Services Line, and it will handle calls from anyone who claims to be a victim, no matter what their immigration status or the status of the perpetrator.
And it will specialize in helping illegal immigrants who say they are victims of crimes get special visas to stay in the country.
“All people, regardless of their immigration status, should be able to access victim services without fear,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “This administration is committed to providing a reliable source of information and guidance for all victims irrespective of their status.”
His move is the latest in a series of steps designed to erase any vestige of changes Mr. Trump made in immigration policy at Homeland Security.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where the VOICE office was located, said it will issue a new telephone number for the VESL.
In addition to helping immigrants get U and T visas, which give legal status to illegal immigrant victims of certain crimes and human trafficking, respectively, the new office also will serve as a hotline for immigrants in detention to complain of their treatment.
The office also will serve as a notification system for immigration court cases.
Don Rosenberg, whose son was killed in a traffic collision by an illegal immigrant, said the lack of any focus on crimes committed by illegal immigrants was “conspicuous.”
“It is not ICE or the Department of Homeland Security’s function to ‘help’ illegal aliens,” Mr. Rosenberg, who is president of Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime, told The Washington Times. “This new office is another outrageous violation of our immigration laws and another ‘service’ to allow illegal aliens to remain in America.”
Mr. Trump gave victims and their relatives like Mr. Rosenberg an unprecedented voice in public policy. First as a candidate and then as president, Mr. Trump repeatedly met with them, invited them on stage at events and gave them a platform to highlight an often untold side of the immigration debate.
By contrast, top Democrats, including President Obama, President Biden and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, focused on illegal immigrants themselves, elevating voices of DACA recipients and others who are in the country illegally.
The contrasting approaches play out throughout Homeland Security’s mission, with the Biden team limiting the targets for ICE arrest and deportation and relaxing border controls, which analysts — and illegal immigrants themselves — say has sparked the current border surge.
Jon Feere, who served as chief of staff at ICE during the Trump administration, said the VOICE office was able to provide information about illegal immigrant perpetrators to victims. He said that’s important for victims trying to follow court cases and make sure people are brought to justice.
He said it’s not clear whether ICE will continue that service under the new VESL system.
“It was a well-functioning, apolitical, victim-centered office that did a lot of good in providing a needed resource,” Mr. Feere said. “This is a completely unnecessary change that trashes years of branding and outreach by career officials. If the Biden administration cared about victims, it would not have done this.”
Mr. Feere, now director of investigations at the Center for Immigration Studies, said with more criminal immigrants being released rather than deported by the Biden administration, there’s a pressing need for the work the VOICE office does.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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