In a majority decision, the Supreme Court recently ruled to allow 29-year-old Mexican immigrant Juan Esquivel-Quintana to return to the United States after being deported from Michigan in 2015. The incident happened after he was caught having sexual relations with a minor, which immigration officials erroneously found to be grounds for deportation.
Esquivel-Quintana first entered the U.S. with his family at the age of 12. He later applied for legal permanent residence, got approved, and became a resident of California.
California law forbids legal adults from engaging in consensual sexual activity with underage partners if the age gap exceeds three years. Unfortunately for Esquivel-Quintana, he was 21 at the time he was caught having sex with his then-16-year-old girlfriend. He claims to have ceased any romantic and sexual relations with the woman since 2010.
This discovery brought state law enforcement official to arrest Esquivel-Quintana, who later pleaded no contest to the charges involving sex with a minor. The guilty plea resulted in his detention for 90 days, after which he moved to Michigan.
However, federal officials initiated deportation proceedings soon after Esquivel-Quintana’s relocation to Michigan, emphasizing that he had supposedly been convicted of “sexual abuse of a minor,” which, according to federal immigration law, is an offense that could result in immediate deportation.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials arrested Esquivel-Quintana in 2013. Michael Carlin, legal counsel to Esquivel-Quintana, claims ICE “didn’t touch him until he left [California],” and that the agency’s officials waited until he had reached Michigan before initiating the arrest.
“When he moved to Michigan, that’s when ICE swooped in and arrested him,” Carlin said.
Carlin’s client was later deported in January 2015 as decided by an immigration judge and approved by the Board of Immigration Appeals.
However, Esquivel-Quintana pointed out that consensual sex with a partner under the age of consent is not illegal in 43 other states, nor is the act a violation of federal immigration laws. Moreover, as Justice Clarence Thomas said, federal law requires that a sex partner must be below the age of 16 for the act to be qualified as “sexual abuse of a minor.”
Justice Thomas added that Esquivel-Quintana’s deportation is therefore invalid as he has not violated federal law, nor has he been charged with deportable acts.
Speaking to the press, Carlin said, “We expect that our client will be coming back to the United States and almost surely to Michigan.”
The Supreme Court’s decision comes at a time of heightened tensions over immigration, with the Trump administration stepping up its efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants, and sometimes, even individuals with proper immigration documentation.
If you are an immigrant, undocumented or otherwise, concerned about your constitutional rights, don’t hesitate to contact the offices of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call us today to schedule a consultation with Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.