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A New ICE Report on Undocumented Immigrant Crime Lacks Hard Statistics

The Victims of Immigration Crime (VOICE) office's quarterly report offers case studies, but it does not include statistics on crime rates.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested hundreds in Florida and Puerto Rico in March of 2018.

The Trump administration recently released a "quarterly report" about its hotline for victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. But the report, which covers April through September of 2017, doesn't offer statistics on rates of crime among undocumented aliens, despite its directive to study the effects of such crime.

In January of 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to create an office to serve those affected by criminal undocumented immigrants. The office was also supposed to "provide quarterly reports studying the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States." In response, ICE created the Victims of Immigration Crime, or VOICE, office.

The office supports one of Trump's major political points: In speeches, he often argues that the undocumented are a threat to citizens because they perpetrate violent crimes. Most social science research suggests that, as a group, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

VOICE's quarterly report offers a few case studies of undocumented immigrants committing serious crimes. But because it doesn't study the rates of crime among this population overall, it doesn't contradict the existing research, as BuzzFeed points out.

The report also suggests Americans aren't using VOICE's hotline as intended. More than half of the 4,000-plus calls VOICE fielded in its first six months were recorded by call operators as "commentary or unrelated." More than a fifth were reporting a crime, which isn't part of VOICE's stated mission, although the news site Splinter obtained internal training documents that say VOICE "will provide a means for persons to report suspected criminal activity." Only about 12 percent of calls were directly related to VOICE's services, including sign-ups for automated immigration status information (which crime victims and witnesses are entitled to), questions about a case's status, and requests for victim services.

This information isn't entirely new: ICE had previously released VOICE call logs on its website and to news organizations. The logs revealed callers often wanted to report on their neighbors or family members they knew or suspected were undocumented, often for non-violent crimes such as illegal employment or marriage fraud. ICE faced criticism at that time for releasing private information—including addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers—of both callers and their accused.

Little is known about what VOICE has been doing since then. There's no timeline yet for when the office will post more updated data on its activity, a spokesperson told BuzzFeed.