Homeland Security is not happy with your calls about space aliens

They don’t want to know about your crop circles.

Retired Gen. John Kelly (USMC), who is serving as Secretary of Homeland Security, has strong views on how to fight the war on drugs. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Retired Gen. John Kelly (USMC), who is serving as Secretary of Homeland Security, has strong views on how to fight the war on drugs. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the opening of a hotline meant for victims of crimes committed by “criminal aliens,” a term used by the agency to describe criminal immigrants.

The phone banks began lighting up almost immediately. But to the great dismay of DHS officials, it appears many callers took the agency’s words at face value, and are making use of the hotline to report encounters with criminal aliens…of the extraterrestrial variety.

Critics of the newly minted Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office argue that the real purpose of the hotline is to disparage immigrants, not offer any meaningful assistance for victims. In addition to the hotline, VOICE is also tasked with publicly tracking and highlighting crimes committed by both legal and undocumented immigrants. Immigrant advocates are concerned administration officials are using the office to elevate the perception of immigrants as criminals, an impression rooted in President Donald Trump’s own rhetoric equating immigrants with criminals, terrorists, and few good people.

In response, the internet came together to instead use the hotline to report close encounters of the third kind. Some people said they were met with wait times of up to 20 minutes before they were able to get through to an operator.

Alexander McCoy, a Marine Corps veteran, told BuzzFeed News that he was inspired to tell people on Twitter to report that they were victimized by space aliens in part because he felt the Trump administration was using the office as a “racist propaganda tool” and there’s no real way of knowing if a perpetrator is an immigrant at the time the victim gets hurt.

Even though it appears pranksters have succeeded at overwhelming the system within 24 hours, DHS says it will keep the hotline up and running. For now.

“The VOICE line remains in operation,” ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox told ThinkProgress. “As yesterday was its first day I can’t give you any sense of whether this group had any impact at all on wait times or call volume because there’s no prior data to compare.”

In a fiery response to a ThinkProgress inquiry, an ICE official pointed out that the VOICE office gives public information about criminal immigrants to victims, regardless of immigration status. The official also said that it was “absurd” and “shameful” that the creation of the VOICE can be considered racist, as immigrant advocates and others have alluded to. And the official condemned pranksters of “openly obstructing and mocking victims” that could “harm victims.”