(JTA) — A new government program to aid victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants unfairly singles out minorities, says a Jewish refugee aid group.
HIAS, which runs refugee resettlement programs, criticized the new Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, or VOICE, which was created Wednesday. VOICE, which will be run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will provide counseling to victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, as well as information on the immigration status of the perpetrator.
A statement announcing VOICE’s launch said “ICE wants to ensure those victimized by criminal aliens feel heard, seen and supported.” An existing state-level program, Victim Information and Notification Everyday, already provides counseling to crime victims without focusing exclusively on undocumented immigrants, according to The New York Times.
In a statement Thursday, HIAS said VOICE discriminates against a vulnerable population.
“Singling out certain people based solely on their immigration status sets a dangerous new direction for our society,” the statement said. “This new, taxpayer-funded government office only serves to marginalize minority communities, demonize newcomers and divide us.”
HIAS compared the office’s work to accusations a century ago that Jewish immigrants were committing widespread crime. Other critics have gone further. Democracy Now!, a news program seen as progressive, has compared Trump’s emphasis on crimes by undocumented immigrants to reports in Nazi German papers on Jewish crime.
“For example, during the early part of the twentieth century, HIAS-assisted Jewish refugees who fled persecution in Europe were blamed for the majority of crimes in New York City,” the HIAS statement said. “It is unfair to demonize immigrants based on the actions of a few while failing to recognize the overwhelmingly positive contributions new members of our society make to our economy and our communities.”