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New ICE Program Focuses on Helping Crime Victims

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WESLACO – Victims of crimes committed by people who are in the country illegally can now get help through the Department of Homeland Security.

It’s all part of President Donald Trump’s Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office also known as “VOICE.”

The program doesn’t compensate the victim financially. Instead, it promises to help keep the victim informed of the alleged criminal’s status.

In January, President Trump signed an executive order titled enhancing public safety in the interior of the United States, and included in that executive order - the creation of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office or VOICE.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS found out the word crime in this effort by DHS isn’t limited to certain types of crime.

People like farmer Robert Martinez benefit too. He’s been a victim of property crime by people entering the country illegally.

He said over the decades he’s seen people crossing into the country illegally damage his property and produce along the way.

“There I lost all my crop because they came in about. They were crossing and laying on the squash,” he said. “They started running all over the place. So that took care of my crop for that year.”

Martinez said the program is a good first step but added it’s difficult to address one criterion.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement requires victims to know the identity of the perpetrator.

“That goes into the thing of a camera, okay you have to have a camera that you can see,” Martinez said.

In a statement, ICE notes the program does not compensate victims of crime, stating:

"There are programs at DOJ's (Department of Justice) Office for Victims of Crime and through state and local government that do provide compensation under certain circumstance, but that is not within the mission of the VOICE office"

The data collected by the agency focuses on the records of those Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests or removals, not on victims. We are told ICE will not inquire as to a victim’s immigration status through VOICE.

If someone thinks they qualify for assistance, they can call the VOICE Hotline at 1-855-48-VOICE.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement notes it isn’t a hotline to report crime. To report crime, people should contact their local law enforcement agency or 1-88-DHS-2-ICE.

Link: VOICE Program

Link: Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States

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