N.Y. Governor Gets Serious About Domestic Violence ... or Does He?

By Dan Cadman on December 18, 2017

Two of the things I dislike most in our divisive national discourse on so many subjects are 1) logical inconsistency, and 2) how frequently prominent politicians fail to connect the dots between different subjects — sometimes for lack of vision, and sometimes as a deliberate strategy because linking the subjects would require a change in position on one side or the other (refer back to item 1).

A perfect example of this comes from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is going to propose a change in state laws that would make it illegal for an individual convicted of either felony or misdemeanor domestic violence to possess a firearm. At present, New York State law prohibits gun ownership only for felons — vs. federal law, which prohibits any individual convicted of domestic violence, whether felony or misdemeanor, from owning a gun. Federal rules also go so far as to prohibit anyone from becoming a federal law enforcement officer if he or she has been convicted of a domestic violence or stalking crime, or if he or she is under a domestic violence-related restraining order. This is as it should be.

Don't get me wrong: I'm absolutely in favor of the change in state law, even if in some ways it's superfluous given that federal law predominates. But therein lies the logical inconsistency where the governor and the state are concerned.

Federal immigration laws specifically render an alien deportable if he or she has been convicted of either felony or misdemeanor domestic violence, or is under a domestic violence-related restraining order. (See Section 237(a)(2)(E) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.) This removability provision even applies to resident aliens — as it should, if our nation is to be consistent in its zero tolerance policy toward domestic violence, which is most often directed against women and children.

And yet, New York State does not appear committed to the rule of law where aliens are concerned. Although it is not technically a "sanctuary jurisdiction" within the meaning adopted by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the state tolerates such practices from several of its political subdivisions, including New York City, the most populous metropolitan area in the United States. Here are the locales within New York State that CIS has identified as sanctuaries that defy immigration law by refusing to turn alien criminals, including domestic violence offenders, over to federal authorities:

  • Albany
  • Franklin County
  • Ithaca
  • Nassau County
  • New York City
  • Omondaga County
  • St. Lawrence County
  • Wayne County

What's more, the governor has actually continued and expanded upon a policy established by his predecessor, David Paterson, of actively using his pardon authorities for the specific purpose of ensuring that aliens convicted of crimes that render them removable can be snatched out from under the jurisdiction of federal immigration law by his grant of a pardon (or commutation of sentence, when the length of sentence is relevant to the question of removability). This is incredible but true: Check out item 3 under "Standard Pardon" on this New York State website, where you can see it for yourself.

The consequence of these two things, acting in confluence with one another, is that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of aliens who fall into the category of "removable" on the basis of their domestic violence and stalking convictions, or based on court orders, are released back into the community rather than being handed over to the federal government.

And who is at risk as the result of this policy of deliberately looking the other way? Those who have already been victimized once, or new, fresh victims; in either case, usually women and children.

This is for the simple reason that domestic violence offenders are frequently recidivists (assembled statistics can be found on the website of the American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence).

Worse, many domestic violence offenders end up murdering their partners.

It seems clear to me that if and when the governor gets serious about domestic violence, he will do more than advocate a change of state law. He needs to get right down to the heart of the matter and take steps within his control to ensure that no alien who is under a court order or who has been convicted of a crime of domestic violence, whether felony or misdemeanor, is able to sidestep the consequences because the state and its subdivisions choose to be negligent about their responsibilities to tender these aliens over to the federal government for a hearing in front of an immigration judge.

Until that happens, it's all just "atmospherics" and "optics", as the pundits say.