The problem with VOICE

If you watched (or read about) the State of the Union, you probably recall President Trump’s policy called VOICE, which was the administration’s plan to protect law abiding citizens by exposing crimes committed by immigrants (VOICE = victims of immigration crime engagement).

Unfortunately, like other sloppy rollouts of new policies this administration has completed, the database had a disastrous debut.  The database mistakenly included the names and detailed personal information of children and babies, and also included many adults who are not criminals.

From the LA Times:

The matches reveal the detention facility the immigrant is housed in, custody status, age, country of birth, date of birth, race, gender and aliases. There doesn’t appear to be any way to distinguish between someone who may have perpetrated a crime beyond being in the country illegally.

Attorneys representing immigrants expressed anger and worry over the release of names that were supposed to be protected.

Bryan Johnson, the Long Island, N.Y., lawyer who first noticed the error, called the release “reckless incompetence on the part of the Trump administration.”

“In their haste to pretend like they care about victims of immigrant crimes, the Trump administration released personally identifiable information regarding vulnerable children at risk of human trafficking and other crimes,” said Johnson, who defends children brought into the United States from abroad, many escaping violence.

Matthew Kolken, an immigration attorney in New York, said he was shocked that a quick search of the database brought up one of his clients — a 26-year-old asylum applicant from Lebanon who has been detained by immigration officials for two years.

The man had overstayed his visa and sought asylum because he is a pro-democracy leader in a youth movement back home and being persecuted by Hezbollah, Kolken said.

“If a terrorist organization is looking for him they may simply enter his name into a database and know exactly where he is,” Kolken said. “It puts his entire family back home in jeopardy.”

Supporters of VOICE will likely say the errors will be corrected, and that only a small percentage of immigrants were affected by the mistake.  But, remember: these are people’s lives and putting some of the most vulnerable in society at risk is no small error that can be easily corrected.


Photo: refugee and immigrant support rally in my hometown







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