President Donald Trump reacts after addressing a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP) (AP)

Trump's office on immigrant crime is dramatic overhaul

Critics say the proposal is misguided, in part because immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than natives

Alicia A. Caldwell - Sadie Gurman
March 2, 2017 1:42AM (UTC)

WASHINGTON  — President Donald Trump is spotlighting violence committed by immigrants, announcing the creation of a national office that can assist American victims of such crimes. He said during his address Tuesday night that the Homeland Security Department's Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement office will provide a voice for people ignored by the media and "silenced by special interests."

Critics of the president's approach to immigration say the proposal is misguided, in part because studies show immigrants are less likely to commit crime than native-born U.S. citizens.


A look at the proposal and what it aims to do:

What is the 'Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office?"

Trump's plan to create VOICE as an office to advocate for victims of immigrant crime continues a dramatic overhaul of immigration policies.

The new office would run counter to the Obama-era public advocate within Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE created that position in 2012 in the midst of an overhaul of policies about which immigrants in the country illegally should be targeted for deportation.


ICE said at the time that its first public advocate, Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, would be the person at ICE who advocates, and immigrants facing deportation and others could call to complain or get explanations about how the agency was conducting its work.

Launched and shuttered by the Obama administration, the office was bashed by critics of President Barack Obama's immigration enforcement policies.

Trump's VOICE would take a much different role, advocating for victims of crimes committed by immigrants, including those in the country illegally. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly detailed the office's planned work in a memo last month explaining how his agency would carry out Trump's immigration enforcement policies.


Kelly said in the memo that ICE was previously blocked from doing this work because it extended privacy protections to immigrants, a policy that left "victims feeling marginalized and without a voice."

Are lots of criminals immigrants? 

Multiple studies have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crime than native-born U.S. citizens. A 2014 study published in the journal Justice Quarterly concluded that immigrations "exhibit remarkably low levels of involvement in crime across their life course."


Trump pointed to some high-profile examples in his Tuesday night speech to Congress, including a man whose son was shot by a gang member in Los Angeles and two married police officers who were killed on duty. Their families were among special guests at Trump's speech.

The new office fits into his hard-line stance on immigration that includes a proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and new guidance that Homeland Security would subject any immigrants in the country illegally to deportation if they are charged or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime.

Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America's Voice, a liberal-leaning organization that advocates for immigrants, said, "Trump continues to tag immigrants as criminals, a charge as false as it is cruel."


What happens next?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it is rearranging existing personnel to support the new office and is "currently drafting outreach materials for victims and families impacted by immigration crime."

Alicia A. Caldwell

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Sadie Gurman

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