June 26, 2017

Hirono Leads Effort to Prevent Trump Administration from Discriminating Against Immigrants

New Office that Focuses on Crimes Committed by Immigrants Raises Serious Constitutional Concerns

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and six other Senators demanded answers from the Trump Administration today on a new office created to focus on publicizing information about crimes committed by immigrants. In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly, the Senators asked for answers about the purpose for creating the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office due to concerns the office’s activities could lead to misinformation and potentially illegal discrimination.

“Given President Trump’s aggressive rhetoric on immigrants and the reported increase in hate crimes in the past year, we are troubled that VOICE could contribute to discrimination and violence against immigrants and those perceived to be immigrants,” wrote the Senators. “In particular, after recent reports that a searchable database launched in conjunction with VOICE included information on children and asylum seekers, we are concerned that personally identifiable information released by VOICE will lead to the direct targeting of individuals, including children.”

In addition, the Senators expressed their concern that VOICE, in its stated goals, was duplicative of existing resources without creating any real benefits.

The letter was also signed by Senators Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).

National immigration advocates joined the Senators in their concerns.

“VOICE is a propaganda machine to defame America's immigrants. Report after report has shown that immigrants commit far less and are far less likely to commit crime than native born Americans. We all want to be safe, and those who mean us harm should be dealt with. But this approach is an insult to this nation of immigrants and does not make us safer. We need to heal the wounds of hatred, not fan them,” said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, the National Council of La Raza’s Deputy Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation.

“The creation of the VOICE office is yet another dangerous and ill-conceived action of this administration that promotes the profiling of immigrants and promotes racism and xenophobia while doing nothing for public safety,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “VOICE sounds a clarion call to those who will target their vitriol and violence toward immigrants, legitimizing their hateful actions through fear-mongering government policies.”

“We hope the Department of Homeland Security takes the safety, privacy and confidentiality concerns of all victims and survivors of gender-based violence, including detained immigrant victims, very seriously and adheres to the VAWA confidentiality protections mandated by Congress,” said Ruth Glenn, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Please click here for a copy of the letter.

###