Esquivel-Quintana v. Lynch

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: October 28, 2016
  • Case #: 16-54
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 810 F.3d 1019 (6th Cir. 2016)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether a conviction under the laws of seven states that criminalize consensual sex with a twenty-one year old and an individual who is almost eighteen is an "aggravated felony" under the Immigration and Nationality Act and in turn grounds for mandatory removal, when such conduct is legal in forty-three other states, the District of Columbia, and the Model Penal Code?

Petitioner was admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident. He later pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under California Penal Code § 261.5, which defines unlawful sexual intercourse as “an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if the person is a minor,” and the minor is “more than three years younger than the perpetrator.” The Department of Homeland Security then initiated and prevailed in alien removal proceedings, claiming that Petitioner’s conviction qualified as an aggravated felony pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), permitting Petitioner’s removal because his conviction constituted “sexual abuse of a minor.” The Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the removal. On appeal, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split on the question presented by Petitioner. Petitioner argued that the Board erroneously concluded that “sexual abuse of a minor” was ambiguous, affording the Board deference to make its own interpretation of the term pursuant to Chevron. Rather, Petitioner argued that Chevron deference does not apply because Congress’ superseding definition of “minor” under 18 U.S.C. § 2243 is a person under the age of twelve, and the generic definition of “sexual abuse of a minor” in a majority of States is sixteen for the purposes of an aggravated felony. Finally, Petitioner argued, the rule of lenity requires courts to interpret ambiguous criminal statutes in his favor, making the removal unlawful.


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