Sanctuaries and the "Minor" Crime of Domestic Violence

By Dan Cadman on April 13, 2017

A terrible incident occurred at an elementary school in San Bernardino recently, when an estranged husband entered the premises, shot his wife (a teacher) dead and then turned the gun on himself. Children were also wounded in the attack.

To the best of my knowledge, this most recent tragic incident has nothing directly to do with immigration at all. So why blog about it here? Because it raises the ugly specter of domestic violence, which does have a nexus to immigration. Domestic violence is a sadly recurring event in American life — some estimate that as many as one in every four women will experience some form of domestic abuse in their lives.

It is so significant a social issue that, in the immigration context, aliens who suffer domestic abuse can file for protection and green cards courtesy of the latest iteration of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and aliens convicted of a domestic violence or stalking offense — or who violate the terms of a court restraining order to stay away from a victim — are deemed to be deportable, whether the conviction is for a felony or misdemeanor.

The predictably progressive Huffington Post published an article when the prior version of VAWA expired, railing against official foot-dragging in re-authorizing the law, and setting forth a variety of facts about domestic violence (some more useful and relevant than others) to justify its renewal.

But the point I am heading for is this: Very often, domestic violence is treated as a misdemeanor under state laws; almost certainly so for first and "minor" offenses — this despite the fact that, statistically, many such offenses escalate in frequency and brutality until the victim is seriously injured or murdered, as happened in San Bernardino.

And yet state and local governments with immigration sanctuary policies — or that otherwise engage in forms of picking and choosing the offenses they deem "serious" enough to merit turning alien offenders over to federal immigration agents — often deem that misdemeanor domestic violence offenses don't meet the threshold for honoring immigration detainers.

Ironically, such governments often believe themselves to be "progressive" and liberal in outlook. It doesn't seem to occur to them that their position vis-a-vis alien domestic violence offenders is oxymoronic and completely contrary to issues of gender and spousal equality, not to mention a flagrant disregard of victims' rights.

In these sanctuaries, aliens convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses are simply released back into their communities, leaving their victims at further risk.

That is one of the many reasons why state and local governments should not be permitted to exercise selectivity in deciding what kinds of alien offenders end up in removal proceedings. After all, there is a reason why the Constitution assigned control over immigration matters exclusively to the federal government. Permitting any other course of action is an invitation to a patchwork quilt of immigration control that virtually dooms any serious effort at border control, to everyone's ultimate detriment.

Allowing state and local governments to thwart the will of the federal government on matters of immigration is not a Tenth Amendment "state sovereignty" issue — it is a de facto return to the failed experiment with the Articles of Confederation that threatened to tear our new republic apart so many years ago. If allowed to continue, it may do so yet.