When Juan Esquivel-Quintana was 20-years-old, he had a girlfriend who was 16. They had sex. Because this was in California, and because California has one of the highest ages of consent in America—18—and because he was more than three years older than his girlfriend, this was a crime.
Esquivel-Quintana pleaded no contest and went to jail for 90 days, in 2009. Afterward he was allowed to go on with his life, until he moved to Michigan to be closer to his family.
Then the feds began deportation proceedings. He was sent back to Mexico in 2013.
The facts are these: Esquivel-Quintana came to America from Mexico with his family at age 12. He was a lawful permanent resident. And the relationship he had is not even illegal in 43 other states—including Michigan.
But immigration officials said that since he’d been convicted of “sexual abuse of a minor,” off he had to go.
Yesterday this case made it to the Supreme Court. As WDET reports:
The dispute is a growing part of the national legal landscape as federal lawmakers add more types of criminal offenses to the list of what makes immigrants deportable, says Andrew Moore, associate professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.
“The challenge is that for some of the grounds that our federal immigration law identifies as being grounds for being deportable are very, very broad,” he says. “For example there’s one whole category called the ‘crime involving moral turpitude.’ Now, of course, nobody at the state level is ever convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude so the challenge is trying to fit whether the state offense fits into this broad category.”
Allon Kedem, assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General, argued that Esquivel-Quintana was unworthy of remaining in this country because his crime was so great. “When there’s a meaningful age difference, such that the perpetrator and victim are not in the same age group, as a result of that, the victim may not be able to advocate for themselves.”
Somehow the girl is a “victim” in seven states, and a perfectly capable young woman in the rest. Hmm. As Jeffrey Fisher, Esquivel-Quintana’s lawyer, argued, “You have an extraordinary case here, where the government is trying to deport somebody for committing something that isn’t even a crime under federal [law] and the vast majority of states.”
How about we don’t label sex as “abuse” in the first place, when there is zero evidence of force, trickery, or coercion? And then, how about we don’t throw people out of America for even more esoteric reasons, including relationships that are common and consensual?
The Court is expected to rule on the case sometime before June.