When President Trump announced a new Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office and hotline in last year's joint address to Congress, he said he would be "providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media and silenced by special interests." Almost a year later, VOICE, run by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has improperly released private and legally protected information about people who call into the hotline and the people they are calling about, potentially undermining the trust of crime victims. Callers are additionally improperly treating the hotline as a crime tip line, The Arizona Republic reports.
Last year, ICE posted summaries of call logs on its website that included names, addresses, and phone numbers of crime victims and immigrants accused of being in the U.S. illegally or crimes, plus identification numbers and employers of the immigrants. The Arizona Republic said that for its part, it filed a Freedom of Information Act request for "any and all criminal activity" called in to the VOICE line in July, received a spreadsheet with 643 callers on Sept. 8, then got a "clawback response" letter on Oct. 4 saying the September release inadvertently contained "personally identifiable information of third parties, law enforcement sensitive information, and potentially deliberative information."
The Republic illustrated the problems with the case of Elena Maria Lopez, who called the VOICE hotline to improperly report that her Dutch ex-husband had married her for a green card and then threatened her; was told that there was nothing VOICE could do; then received a call informing her that the information she had provided in confidence was released to the newspaper. "The same agency that claimed it had to protect my ex-husband's rights just destroyed my privacy and my safety," Lopez told the Republic. David Bier, an immigration analyst at the Cato Institute, called this a predictably "serious problem" that has undermined trust in the government on immigration issues.