Esquivel-Quintana v. Lynch

PETITIONER: Juan Esquivel-Quintana
RESPONDENT: Jefferson B. Sessions, III, Attorney General
LOCATION: Board of Immigration Appeals

DOCKET NO.: 16-54
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

GRANTED: Oct 28, 2016

Facts of the case

Juan Esquivel-Quintana was admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident in 2000. In 2009, he pled guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under the relevant statute in California. In California, unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor is defined as an act of sexual intercourse with a person who is a minor and not the spouse of the perpetrator. The statute further provides that anyone who is convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is more than three years younger than the perpetrator is guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony.

After 2009, Esquivel-Quintana moved to Michigan, which is where the Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings against him based on the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The INA states that a non-citizen may be removed from the United States if he is convicted of an aggravated felony such as sexual abuse of a minor. An Immigration Judge ruled that Esquivel-Quintana’s conviction under California law constituted sexual abuse of a minor and ordered his removal. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed and held that the term “sexual abuse of a minor” in the INA encompassed convictions under the relevant California statute without looking at the individual facts of the case. The U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the BIA’s decision. The appellate court determined that the BIA’s decision was entitled to deference as a permissible interpretation of an ambiguous statute under the Supreme Court’s precedent in Chevron, USA, Inc v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., and that the rule of lenity--requiring that statutory ambiguity be resolved in the defendant’s favor--did not apply in a civil case.


Should “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” as defined by California law be considered the aggravated felony of “sexual abuse of a minor” under the Immigration and Nationality Act and therefore require mandatory removal?