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S. 4644 (117th): Voice for Victims Act

According to these Republicans, Biden is like the Greek goddess Hera, because he can take away your VOICE.


Within his first week in office, former President Donald Trump issued an executive order establishing the creation of an office for victims of crimes committed by “removable aliens,” or immigrants eligible for deportation. Three months later, In April 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office, nicknamed VOICE.

“All crime is terrible, but these victims are unique — and too often ignored,” then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said in a press release announcing the office. “They are casualties of crimes that should never have taken place, because the people who victimized them oftentimes should not have been in the country in the first place.”

In June 2021, President Joe Biden’s administration discontinued VOICE.

In its place, they announced the creation of a new Victims Engagement and Services Line (VESL). The toll-free hotline available at 1–833–383–1465. A government press release upon its introduction said the hotline “will serve as a more comprehensive and inclusive victim support system,” because the service is available regardless of the legal immigration status of the perpetrator or the victim.

What the legislation does

New legislation would reestablish the VOICE office once more.

The House version was introduced on April 27 as the Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement Restoration Act, H.R. 7595, by Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI1).

The Senate version was introduced exactly three months later on July 27 as the Voice for Victims Act, S. 4644, by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC).

What supporters say

Supporters argue that with a record number of monthly migrant apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border in May, it’s important to take a hard line on those coming to this country illegally, especially those who commit a further crime once inside U.S. borders.

“With the Biden border crisis rapidly worsening, it’s imperative we protect the rights of U.S. citizens victimized by illegal alien crime,” Rep. Bergman said in a press release. “Continued surges at the southern border take away our ability to know who is in our country, and it will result in more violent criminals making their way into our communities and more innocent Americans at risk. This office is dedicated to supporting victims, while also vigilantly reporting on the impact of the proliferating invasion at our southern border.”

“Many dangerous illegal immigrants, including cartel members, are making their way further into our country committing heinous crimes,” Sen. Tillis said in a separate press release. “Anyone who falls victim to a dangerous illegal immigrant deserves the proper care and attention, including bringing the illegal immigrant to account. [This legislation would] give a voice to every victim.”

What opponents say

Opponents counter that the Justice Department has already operated the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) since 1988, so adding a similar office specifically aimed at victims of crimes created by immigrants didn’t add any meaningfully new government function, but rather served as a form of scapegoating and conservative virtue signaling.

“Providing assistance to society’s most vulnerable is a core American value. All people, regardless of their immigration status, should be able to access victim services without fear,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a press release announcing the end of VOICE and its replacement with VESL. “This administration is committed to providing a reliable source of information and guidance for all victims irrespective of their status.”

“As a federal law enforcement agency, ICE is committed to serving all victims of crime,” ICE’s Acting Director Tae D. Johnson said in the same press release. “Through VESL, ICE is better positioned than ever to uphold this commitment. ICE has never and will never ask those seeking help about their immigration status and will provide these services without regard to a victim’s immigration status or the status of their perpetrator.”

(Ed Gonzalez, Biden’s nominee to lead ICE, withdrew in June before receiving a Senate vote. As a result, Johnson is still serving as Acting Director today, more than a year after that press release.)

Odds of passage

The House version has attracted four cosponsors, all Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in the House Judiciary Committee.

The Senate version has attracted two cosponsors, both Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Odds of passage are low in the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Last updated Aug 30, 2022. View all GovTrack summaries.

No summary available.