The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday considered a Mexican immigrant's claim that he should not be deported for having consensual sex with his under-age girlfriend, with several justices indicating sympathy for his plight.
The case involving Juan Esquivel-Quintana, a lawful permanent U.S. resident who came to the country at age 12, was argued before the eight justices as President Donald Trump's administration plans to ramp up deportations and broaden the categories of immigrants targeted.
Juan Esquivel-Quintana was arrested in 2009 and convicted under California law for having sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend when he was 20 and 21 years old. The California law says it is a criminal offense for an adult to have sex with anyone under 18 when the age difference between the two is more than three years. Six other states have similar laws.
The legal fight concerns whether his conduct means he is subject to deportation under federal immigration law, which says any immigrant convicted of "sexual abuse of a minor" can be deported.
During the one-hour oral argument, several of the eight justices, including liberals Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, indicated they believe Esquivel-Quintana's actions did not fit within the definition of the immigration law.
Lawyers for the Trump administration took over Esquivel-Quintana's case from the administration of President Barack Obama after the Supreme Court agreed to hear his appeal of a January 2016 ruling by the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the government.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)