President Donald Trump called for the creation of a new agency in his joint address to Congress Tuesday, one that assists victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.
The agency within the Department of Homeland Security is known as VOICE, an acronym standing for Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. But the move created waves across the Potomac, with members of a Virginia community group taking notice.
The established group’s name? Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, or VOICE.
The Virginia organization represents 180,000 families across Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria and Prince William. Members seek to bridge religious divides, and in the course of their outreach work, often assist immigrant communities.
“It is regrettable that the President has co-opted a term that in Northern Virginia stands for the inclusion of every citizen in our society and instead uses it to malign one specific group of contributors to our country,” said Rabbi Michael Holzman, a member of VOICE and rabbi of Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation.
“[Immigrants] historically have lower rates of crime than natural born citizens. This is a classic case of double-speak.”
The new federal agency will be charged with publishing weekly lists of crimes committed by immigrants. Federal VOICE agents will also help the victims of those crimes, and study the effects of undocumented immigrant crime.
“We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests,” Trump said Tuesday.
A Jan. 25 executive order authorized the creation of the agency.
“I thought the use of the acronym VOICE for this new DHS division focusing on crimes committed by immigrants was ironic in the sense that Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement makes every effort to treat people as individuals rather than as categories such as immigrant,” said Rev. Tuck Bowerfind Wednesday.
“With regard to what I would say to Mr. Trump and his colleagues, one of the principles of VOICE organizing is that we don’t presume to judge people, especially when we don’t know them personally. I said I couldn’t speak to Mr. Trump’s motives, and I hoped that this same principle of treating people as individuals would be used throughout our government and at every level of our community discourse.”