On Tuesday, President Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time. During his speech, he discussed a number of issues that sound familiar to those who have followed his campaign speeches, such as his plans to undo Obamacare and to build a wall along the border with Mexico. However, Trump's mention of plans for a new government program called VOICE, Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement, people took notice.
"I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims. The office is called VOICE, Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice for those who have been ignored by our media and silenced by special interests," Trump said.
The president did not provide many details during his speech about what VOICE would precisely entail, but the program was actually included in a Department of Homeland Security memo that CNN obtained last week. As CNN's Tal Kopan reported, VOICE would be a division created by executive order that would be "mandated ... to report crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and to advocate for victims of those crimes." According to the memo, It would be funded by monies formerly allocated to DHS to defend undocumented immigrants.
In the immediacy after Trump's speech, VOICE was far from one of the most talked about topics. However, some were already expressing their concerns about what VOICE would mean for undocumented immigrants over Twitter. VICE News shared a clip of Trump's VOICE part of the speech, saying that "[the] announcement was met by audible groans."
Musician Mike Jollet of the band Airborne Toxic Event called VOICE a "racist smokescreen." Comedian Robby Slowik tweeted, "Did he announce the creation of an anti-immigrant propaganda branch of gov't called VOICE or was I accidentally watching a bad sci-fi movie?" Miles Kahn, an executive producer for Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, tweeted, "VOICE, which stands for 'House of Unamerican Activities.'"
Mia Farrow tweeted "Trump creation of 'VOICE'- meaning Victims of Immigrant Crime - will serve to criminalize immigrants."
Since Trump began his campaign for president with a speech accusing Mexico of sending "rapists" and "criminals" into the United States, he has been criticized for holding hostile, if not xenophobic, views. However, just hours before he delivered his address, news outlets for reporting that the president had signaled a significant change in his immigration views and suggested he was open to legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal citizens: "The time is right for an immigration bill if both sides are willing to compromise," Trump told reporters.
What such a bill would entail and how it would work in conjunction with VOICE is not yet clear.