On Wednesday morning, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency unveiled an office called VOICE (Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement) dedicated to “the needs of crime victims and their families who have been impacted by crimes committed by removable criminal aliens.”
By Thursday, VOICE’s most prominent feature—a hotline through which people can call to learn, among other things, “additional criminal or immigration history may be available about an alien to victims or their families”—was swamped with prank calls reporting illegal aliens. As in alien aliens. And judging by the enraged email that ICE sent me when I asked for comment, the agency is supremely pissed off about it.
The hoax crusade bubbled up on Twitter all day Wednesday.
Marine veteran Alexander McCoy told Buzzfeed News that he was inspired to call VOICE’s hotline after seeing #AlienDay trending on Twitter.
“I told them I’d been abducted by a UFO,” he told the site. “There was a long pause. I heard them do a big sigh. And they closed out the conversation saying that they’d make a note of it and I should wait for the DHS to investigate my report.”
As VOICE itself notes on its website, and in a recorded message to hotline callers, the line is not meant as a tip-line to report crimes.
And the influx of hoax callers appears to have already taken its toll.
This is the email I got from an ICE official when I asked the agency for comment on the prank calls (emphasis mine):
The VOICE line remains in operation. As yesterday was its first day I can’t give you any sense of whether this group had any impact at all on wait times or call volume because there’s no prior data to compare.
I hope you won’t dignify this group with the attention they are seeking. But if you choose to do so...this group’s cheap publicity stunt is beyond the pale of legitimate public discourse. Their actions seek to obstruct and do harm to crime victims; that’s objectively despicable regardless of one’s views on immigration policy.
The VOICE Office provides information to citizens and non-citizens alike regardless of status, race, etc., whose loved ones have been killed or injured by removable aliens. VOICE provides access to the same information you and other reporters are already able to obtain. Yet this group claims it’s somehow racist to give the same to victims of all races and nationalities? That is absurd.
Further, openly obstructing and mocking victims crosses the line of legitimate public discourse. VOICE is a line for victims to obtain information. This group’s stunt is designed to harm victims. That is shameful.
What is, in fact, truly shameful is the existence of this hotline—which further dehumanizes and targets an already marginalized group of people—in the first place.