The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday announced the creation of an office to help families that have been the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, part of an effort by President Trump to aggressively crack down on illegal immigration.
President Donald Trump has opened an office for victims of crimes committed by immigrants, following up on a promise he made during last year's election campaign.
"Victims of all types of crimes can get information from various resources about what's happened to the perpetrators in the criminal justice system, but there wasn't anyone there to be able to tell them what's happening on the immigration side", said Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan.
DHS officials stressed that the new service was not for reporting undocumented migrants or crimes, and would not be used against people in the country illegally who are not criminals.
It said community relations officers will serve as local representatives by disseminating information to help victims understand the immigration enforcement and removal process. "If the Trump administration was serious about public safety, it would respect the stance taken by scores of law enforcement officials, who recognize communities are safest when immigrants are seen as important members of these communities, rather than outsiders who come to the U.S.to cause harm".
In announcing the office, the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office, or VOICE, at an event stocked with families of victims, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly emphasized the goal is to give resources and support to families that he said previously felt unheard. "Because the people who victimised them often times should not have been in the country in the first place".
It's not clear exactly what that means since the agency is adamant that it is not created to be used to report crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.
"It is fair to say the definition of "criminal" has not changed", Kelly replied.
Steve Ronnebeck, left, and Mary Ann Mendoza said their pleas to the Obama administration fell on deaf ears. The driver, who was in the country illegally, had been arrested previously on other criminal charges but was released.
"They didn't want to hear us, they didn't want to listen us, and they didn't really care", Ronnebeck said.