Publication Date

Winter 2023


This piece explores how New York’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (“DVSJA”), a law meant to grant freedom to criminalized survivors, plays out in practice for criminalized immigrant survivors. New York enacted the DVSJA to address the unjust, but common, harsh punishment of survivors for conduct that an abuser compels, coerces, or otherwise causes. When the court grants a survivor DVSJA relief, the material benefit is shortening that survivor’s sentence of incarceration.

However, for criminalized immigrant survivors, the DVSJA’s promise of freedom may amount to little more than a mirage because DVSJA relief does not expunge, vacate, or alter underlying convictions. We situate the DVSJA in its institutional, legal, and policy context: a criminalized survivor’s sentence does not exist in a vacuum. Their sentence is just one part of a broader process of criminalization. This piece fills the gap in the policy discussion, based on the experiences of the first immigrant survivor who was resentenced and released under the DVSJA. In addition to calls for changes in policy and practice, this piece urges New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who has expressed concern for the plight of domestic violence survivors—but largely has not used her clemency power to free criminalized survivors (whether facing deportation or not)—to live up to her stated values through widespread use of the clemency power.



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