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A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court today rejected the government’s draconian view of the aggravated felony definition in the context of statutory rape offenses. The government has argued for over a decade that statutory rape offenses are aggravated felonies, even misdemeanor offenses involving high school sweethearts. Being labeled an aggravated felon means, in effect, automatic deportation from the United States.

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), jointly with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), filed an amicus curiae brief explaining the effects of the aggravated felony label. The brief urged the Supreme Court to again rein in efforts to expand that definition to include less serious offenses, and even misdemeanors.  

“The aggravated felon label is the harshest label that can be applied to a noncitizen,” said Charles Roth, director of litigation for NIJC. “It means near-automatic deportation. It prevents an immigration judge from looking at a conviction and determining whether permanent deportation from the United States is really appropriate in a given case.”   

Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions is the fifth in a string of Supreme Court decisions finding that the immigration authorities over-read the aggravated felony definition and made an already draconian provision even harsher.

Attorneys Michael Kimberly, Kevin Ranlett, and Madeleine Hogue from the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP represented NIJC and AILA on the amicus brief.

Counsel for AILA were Rebecca Sharpless, director of the University of Miami Immigration Clinic, and Mark Barr, of Lichter Immigration in Denver, Colorado.