Why People Are Prank Calling This New Government Hotline

April 27th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

Callers are flooding a U.S. government hotline with prank reports of UFO sightings.

The calls are being directed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which launched a hotline Thursday called the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, or VOICE, following through on an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January. The hotline is meant to "acknowledge and serve the needs of crime victims and their families who have been impacted by crimes committed by removable criminal aliens," according to ICE.

ICE isn't happy about the prank calls, with a spokesperson imploring ATTN: not to “dignify this group with the attention they are seeking." The calls are a "cheap publicity stunt," the spokesperson said, that go "beyond the pale of legitimate public discourse." Falsely reporting UFO sightings is "objectively despicable regardless of one's views on immigration policy."

immigration and customs enforcement

Critics of the hotline say it singles out immigrants despite the fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. This includes those who are undocumented, a 2013 report from the Pew Research Center found.

Pew research immigrant crimes

Shortly after its launch on Thursday, VOICE started to receive reports about a different kind of "alien," however. There didn't seem to be a centralized effort behind these calls, but several Twitter users shared the hotline number and encouraged their followers to participate in the trolling.


According to ICE's website, the hotline is available for victims of crime, witnesses of crime, individuals "with a legal responsibility to act on behalf of a victim or witness," and anyone who is calling on behalf of a crime victim or witness. There are five "types of support" available to those parties:

  • "Dedicated toll-free VOICE Hotline to answer questions from victims (1-855-48-VOICE)."
  • "Assistance signing-up to receive automated custody status information about an alien in custody."
  • "Additional criminal or immigration history may be available about an alien to victims or their families."
  • "Local contacts to help with unique victims’ requests."
  • "Access to skilled social science professionals available to refer victims to appropriate services."

The ICE spokesperson claimed the prank callers were harming victims of crime, but could not say whether it impacted wait times.

As for the critics as a whole: "It's somehow racist to give the same public information to victims of all races and nationalities?" the spokesperson asked. "That is absurd."