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For the Purposes of Immigration, What is Sexual Abuse of a Minor?

For the Purposes of Immigration, What is Sexual Abuse of a Minor?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a conviction for an aggravated felony can have serious consequences for an immigrant living in the U.S. without a legal status. More specifically, an individual who commits an aggravated felony becomes subject to removal, is barred from most forms of relief from removal, and generally prohibited from reentering the U.S. The definition of “aggravated felony,” however, is often far from clear. While the INA does reference some federal criminal statutes in order to define certain crimes as aggravated felonies, one crime that the INA does not define is “sexual abuse of a minor.” As a result, various federal courts have issued decisions about how to interpret this crime, but the courts have differed in their definitions. Therefore, there is some confusion about how broadly to interpret the offense referred to as “sexual abuse of a minor.” One federal statute defines “ sexual abuse of a minor” as sexually explicit conduct with a child under the age of 18. However, the federal statute defining the criminal offense of sexual abuse of a minor states that the crime as occurring when an individual knowingly engages in a sexual act with a person who is at least 12 years of age, but younger than 16, and the individual is at least four years older than the victim. A related statute defines a sexual act as actual physical conduct with the victim. Federal courts also have addressed the definition of “sexual abuse of a minor” in different ways. For instance, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has adopted a broad definition of the term, finding that “minor” referred to anyone under the age of 18, rather than between the ages of 12 and 16, pursuant to the federal statute. Likewise, the Second, Third, and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeal have adopted a broad definition of the term, following the Sixth Circuit’s lead. On the other hand, the remaining appellate courts have adopted much more restrictive definitions of the offense; for example, the Tenth Circuit requires that a crime be committed “knowingly” by the perpetrator in order to qualify as “sexual abuse of a minor. As a result of this difference in interpretation of the criminal offense, the U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in the case of Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions. Both sides of this issue are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will provide some clarity in interpreting the term for the purposes of the INA, thus resolving the current split among the Circuit Courts. At Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C., we care about you and your family, and want to help you preserve your home in the United States. However, if you have committed a crime that makes you potentially deportable, you need legal representation right away. We focus our law practice solely on deportation defense cases, which allows us to expend all of our efforts in standing up for the rights of those who are facing potential deportation, including those who are seeking asylum. Our California deportation defense lawyers know how to gather persuasive evidence to support your case and we know all of the procedural ins and outs of the U.S. deportation system. Allow us to handle your deportation case by contacting us today to schedule your legal consultation.

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