By Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy
On Wednesday, April 25th New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he had sent a “cease and desist” letter to ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), threatening to sue the agency if it did not stop its “aggressive” efforts to arrest criminal illegal immigrants. He accused the agency of “stoking terror among law-abiding residents” and of having “no interest in protecting New York communities [or] keeping our homeland safe…” Governor Cuomo further accused ICE of “lawlessness” and of a “pattern of…blatant constitutional violations…” Cuomo says he will “explore and pursue all available legal recourse, taking any such action that is necessary to protect the rights and safety of New Yorkers.” Clearly, Cuomo is contemplating yet another federal lawsuit, but might he also consider arresting these “lawless” ICE agents? Who can say?
First of all, Cuomo’s broadside should be placed in context. When President Trump criticized rogue FBI officials who abused their offices to shield one Presidential campaign from legal scrutiny, and to persecute and frame another, he was widely lambasted for undermining faith in law enforcement and the rule of law itself. Some on the left even believe that the mere act of criticism constitutes obstruction of justice and provides grounds for impeachment. When Governor Cuomo excoriates and threatens an entire federal law enforcement agency, however, he will be celebrated by much of the media and by the left as a valiant defender of the Constitution. These are the times we live in.
But what are the egregious miscarriages of justice of which ICE is purportedly guilty? Cuomo accuses ICE of targeting for deportation illegal immigrants who are outspoken activists, and he suggests that they are being punished for exercising their right to free speech. He provides no examples and offers no evidence to support such a theory.
He also objects to the practice of ICE agents arresting criminal illegal immigrants at their homes or workplaces, where sometimes other illegals are caught up in the dragnet. He conveniently omits to mention that ICE was forced to redirect its enforcement efforts to homes and businesses because, while it would like to arrest criminal illegal aliens in jails and courthouses, authorities in New York State and its various municipalities have done everything in their power to obstruct such arrests. They frequently do not recognize “detainers” issued by ICE, which are requests to detain a criminal illegal alien so that ICE can take them into custody.
In addition, Cuomo directs ICE to coordinate with local law enforcement before they undertake any operation to apprehend illegal immigrants. This demand, however, ignores the obvious problem: the more people who ICE informs in advance of a raid, the more likely it is that the targets will be “tipped off.” This is exactly what happened recently in Oakland, where the Mayor warned her city that immigration authorities were about to pounce, and hundreds of criminals slipped through the cracks.
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Governor Cuomo, and leftist politicians like him all across America, have become unrelentingly hostile to ICE and the Border Patrol, and wish to delegitimize these agencies and obstruct their efforts to enforce U.S. immigration laws. Cuomo’s executive order to ban ICE agents (without a judicial warrant) from state facilities is an extraordinary step along these lines: illegal immigrants, even those guilty of serious crimes, are welcome on New York State property, but federal agents doing their sworn duty are not.
As I have argued previously, any politician who is attempting to “conceal, harbor, or shield from detection” an illegal alien, or to “aid and abet” such actions, is committing a crime under Title 8 of the U.S. Code, Section 1324. The punishment for such crimes is a maximum of five years in prison, per offense. Governor Cuomo is clearly in violation of this law, and I sincerely hope that a U.S. Attorney somewhere in this great land is preparing a case against him.
In addition, however, a strong case can be made that many of Cuomo’s actions constitute every Democrat’s favorite crime: obstruction of justice (I say “favorite crime” because it has become an article of faith on the left that President Trump “obstructs justice” every time he draws breath). The real purpose of the barriers that New York and other “sanctuary” jurisdictions are placing in the way of ICE and the Border Patrol is to make the enforcement of federal immigration laws impossible, and to reassure illegal immigrants that they are in fact “safe” from those who would hold them accountable for their illegality. The key distinction, though, is that President Trump has never argued that treason, election interference, or espionage are not crimes, or should not be investigated by law enforcement. Leftists, by contrast, seek to invalidate the law, as it is written, and problemitize, even criminalize, the enforcement of odious laws. A more crystal clear example of “obstruction of justice” it would be hard to imagine.
It is high time that the flagrant “lawlessness” of leftist politicians was recognized and punished. Governor Cuomo seeks to drive a wedge between state and local authorities and federal authorities. He seeks to subordinate federal immigration enforcement to local and state officials and law enforcement agencies that are all too often bullied into selective enforcement of the law, or outright non-enforcement. Above all, he seeks, at the expense of the rule of law and the U.S. and New York State constitutions, to “grandstand” in order to save his flagging reelection campaign, and to position himself for a run for President in 2020.
It is time to admit, therefore, that New York has a “rogue Governor”. Certainly, New Yorkers should reject him in November. Whatever the voters decide, however, Cuomo should face justice for providing safe harbor to criminal illegal aliens and obstructing the enforcement of federal laws. No one, not even the Governor of the Empire State, is entitled to get away with such outrageous conduct.
Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: www.waddyisright.com.