The Trump administration’s 2017 creation of the VOICE Office—an anti-immigrant smear campaign with historical roots in Nazi Germany—wasn’t just being widely condemned, it was being widely ridiculed. Reporter Robbie Gramer tweeted at the time that the office was being flooded with prank callers reporting crimes committed by space aliens. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was quick to deny the reports, claiming the propaganda office experienced “no disruption.” That, internal emails obtained by The Verge under the Freedom of Information Act, was a lie:
Prank calls fully upended the system, leaving operators unable to answer more than 98 percent of incoming calls during the protest as the media relations team attempted to contain the narrative. In reports and emails produced in the first days of operation, ICE officials described an “overwhelming” amount of calls. The day after the launch, the office received more than 16,400. Of those, only a little more than 2,100 were placed into a queue, and only 260 answered. Callers in the queue waited as long as 79 minutes to reach an operator. An official noted that, should the rate of calls continue, they would need an additional 400 operators to field the hotline.
The Trump administration claimed the office was a resource for crime victims, but this was also a lie (they do that a lot). “The reports show that, in the first days after launch, the number of callers actually seeking crime information was minuscule,” The Verge continued. In reality, the office was meant as a way to harass immigrants, people that racists and thugs perceived to be immigrants or just anyone that pissed them off for one reason or another.
In late 2017, a report from Splinter revealed: “that hundreds of Americans seized on the hotline to lodge secret accusations against acquaintances, neighbors, or even their own family members, often to advance petty personal grievances.” In one instance, a “caller made an immigration complaint against an employee on a work visa at a ballroom-dance studio who was allegedly trying to start her own studio and lure customers away.” The VOICE hotline, 1-855-48-VOICE (6423), remains open, though it’s unknown how often it continues to get trolled.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.