Barely 24 hours after United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened its “Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement” office — VOICE — its victim support hotline has been flooded with calls by people reporting aliens from outer space.
It seems to have started when Alex McCoy, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and member of Common Defense, a grassroots organization of progressive military veterans and family members, wondered aloud on Twitter about the possibility of millions of people reporting crimes perpetrated by extraterrestrials.
“Wouldn’t it be a shame if millions of people called this hotline to report their encounters with aliens of the UFO-variety,” McCoy posted on Twitter.
McCoy tells Inverse he thought it was an especially catchy idea given that the VOICE office opened on Alien Day, April 26.
His call to action appears to have created a tremendous response. Multiple attempts by Inverse to call the hotline were met with busy signals, and McCoy said he waited for 30 minutes. ICE has also drafted a statement in response to the calls.
Why Is There a VOICE Hot Line?
The federal VOICE offices encourage victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants or suspected undocumented immigrants to call the hotline. They will receive information about the suspect and receive professional support. But beyond that, VOICE offers to help people track the criminal history and deportation status of a suspect.
“Additional criminal or immigration history may be available about an alien to victims or their families,” reads the VOICE website.
McCoy says the real reason for the VOICE line is political, of course.
“This VOICE tip line has nothing to do with helping victims, provides them with no services, and serves no law enforcement purpose,” McCoy tells Inverse. “The only thing it does is collect anecdotes for Trump to use to divide our country and promote racist stereotypes.”
The VOICE office was created in response to a pledge President Donald Trump made in a speech on February 28. By tracking victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, the program has drawn criticisms that compare it to Adolf Hitler’s government publishing stories and statistics about Jewish crime. Does McCoy think this is an appropriate comparison?
“Absolutely,” he says. “There is no legitimate purpose for creating an office solely dedicated to anecdotes of perpetrators from one demographic. That’s what betrays that this has nothing to do with supporting victims.”
Needless to say, ICE doesn’t quite see things the same way. In response to a request for comment, an ICE spokesperson responded with the following statement. It is salty:
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 we’re not to going to dignify it with any official on-the-record response. However, as an ICE official on background, 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 public 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 public information to victims of all races and nationalities? That is absurd.
One additional point just to be explicitly clear: reports that VOICE is some sort of line to report immigration-related crime are demonstrably false. This is a line for victims to receive public information, not to report crimes.
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 an attempt to harm victims. That is shameful.
McCoy isn’t impressed. He offers Inverse this rebuttal:
What is truly beyond the pale is this illegitimate administration’s attempts to use government offices to promote bigotry, spread fear, and divide our nation. The American people are speaking out and making our voices heard that we will not tolerate an office of racist propaganda exploiting the grief of victims of crime. Those victims are entitled to support and justice. VOICE provides neither. It merely collects stories to slander my neighbors, my friends, people who I served honorably alongside in the United States Marine Corps. Calling to report a UFO is absurd, but no more absurd than this unacceptable, un-American program, and we will not stop until it is shut down.
McCoy also encourages people not just to call VOICE with their extraterrestrial reports but to support immigrants’ rights groups United We Dream, Mijente, and DREAM Action Coalition.Photos via Flickr / (: Rebecca-louise :)