On immigrant crime, Trump's right. Americans deserve more data.
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In his speech Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress, President Donald Trump mentioned that he has “ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create an office to serve American Victims.  The office is called VOICE — Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement.  We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.”

According to an article this month in Scientific American, immigration-crime research over the past 20 years has corroborated the conclusions of a number of early 20th century presidential commissions that found no backing for an immigration-crime connection.  In fact, the literature demonstrates that immigrants commit fewer crimes, on average, than native-born Americans.

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But did the researchers have the information they needed to substantiate those conclusions?  

 

Ann Coulter makes the following observations in chapter 7 of her book, “¡Adios, America!”:

“You will spend more time trying to obtain basic crime statistics about immigrants in America that trying to sign up for Obamacare.  The facts aren’t there. …. The government doesn’t collect data about immigrant crime, and the media wouldn’t report it, anyway.”

Coulter writes flamboyantly and has many detractors, but “National Review” calls “¡Adios, America!” a “serious book making serious points.”
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University uses the Freedom of Information Act to obtain data on crimes committed by immigrants, which has produced information on prosecutions for criminal immigration law violations.

According to TRAC, immigration is the major focus of federal criminal enforcement efforts.  Criminal prosecutions for illegal entry, illegal re-entry, and similar immigration violations made up 52 percent of all federal prosecutions in FY 2016.  During the 12 months ending September 30, there were 69,636 immigration prosecutions.

Moreover, statistics that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provided to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reveal that in FY2015, ICE released 19,723 criminal aliens who had a total of 64,197 convictions.  This included 101 homicide convictions, 216 kidnapping convictions, 320 sexual assault convictions, 352 commercialized sexual offenses, 1,347 domestic violence convictions, 1,728 assault convictions, and 12,307 driving under the influence of alcohol convictions.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Fallon responds to Trump: I'll donate to pro-immigrant nonprofit in his name South Carolina GOP candidate expected to make full recovery after car accident Official: US to present North Korea with timeline, 'specific asks' MORE created the VOICE program in Section 13 of his executive order (EO) entitled "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States," which reads as follows:

Sec. 13.  Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens.  The Secretary shall direct the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take all appropriate and lawful action to establish within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement an office to provide proactive, timely, adequate, and professional services to victims of crimes committed by removable aliens and the family members of such victims.  This office shall provide quarterly reports studying the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States.”

DHS Secretary John Kelly carried out this order in the memorandum he issued on Feb. 20, 2017, to implement the EO.

He claims in the memorandum that criminal aliens routinely victimize American citizens and other legal residents, and these victims often are not provided with much information about the offender, the offender's immigration status, or any enforcement action taken by ICE against the offender.

The VOICE office will create a programmatic liaison between ICE and victims of crimes committed by removable aliens.  The objective is to facilitate engagement with the victims and their families to ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that they are provided with information about the offender, including the offender's immigration status and custody status.

Secretary Kelly funds this program by ordering the director of ICE to reallocate the resources currently used to advocate on behalf of undocumented aliens (except to comply with a judicial order) to the new VOICE Office, and to terminate outreach and advocacy services to undocumented aliens immediately.

VOICE is not a completely new idea.  ICE established a Victim Assistance Program in 2008, but it has worked primarily with victims of human trafficking. 

A Huffington Post contributor says, “Let’s call this what it is: VOICE is racist government propaganda.”  He claims that VOICE will embroil the media and the public in a constant debate about the merits of immigration in the United States.

Even if the contributor is right about President Trump’s intention in creating this program, and I do not think he is, I applaud the president’s attempt to help crime victims.  

Moreover, I believe that the public is entitled to more information about crimes committed by immigrants, particularly the ones who are here in violation of our immigration laws.  Then, we will be able to let the facts speak for themselves.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years; he subsequently served as the immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. He also has been a policy advisor for the DHS Office of Information Sharing and Collaboration under a contract with TKC Communications, and he has been in private practice as an immigration lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson.


The views of contributors are their own but not the views of The Hill.