In December of 2008, now-33-year-old Mark Lyttle, an American citizen born and raised in North Carolina, was deported to Mexico. He is not of Mexican heritage, had never been to Mexico and could not speak a word of Spanish.
Lyttle has bipolar disorder and cognitive disabilities but was left to wander in Central America on the streets for months, says the ACLU’s Blog of Rights. “What happened to Mark Lyttle is outrageous and unconstitutional,” says Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, which is representing Lyttle along with a partner firm.
Immigrant Officials Coerced Lyttle To Say He Was From Mexico
As the ACLU details, Lyttle was “inexplicably” referred to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as an undocumented immigrant in 2008. Though there was “substantial evidence” of his U.S. citizenship, Lyttle was detained for 51 days and then “coerced” by ICU officials to sign a statement that he was from Mexico. As a result, he found himself in removal proceedings in which he did not have access to a lawyer.
The Raleigh News and Observer learned some disturbing details after reading the 350 page Homeland Security file on Lyttle. ICE officials contend that Lyttle had said that he was from Mexico:
“Individuals who misrepresent their true identity and make false statements to ICE officers create problems both for law enforcement and themselves,” ICE spokesman Ivan Ortiz-Delgado said in a written statement.
Lyttle swore to immigration agents on two occasions that he was Mexican, but he also swore that he was a U.S. citizen born in Rowan County. His Homeland Security file does not reflect any attempt by ICE officials to confirm Lyttle’s citizenship claims.
The agent who took Lyttle’s statement that he was born in North Carolina dismissed it, saying in a report that Lyttle “does not possess any documentation to support his claim.”
The Raleigh News and Observer also found that immigration officials had not attempted to search for Lyttle’s Rowan County birth certificate or to contact his family members before deporting him. Background checks with an FBI fingerprint database and the National Crime Information Center showed that Lyttle was an American citizen, but these findings were not brought forward when he appeared, without a lawyer, before an Atlanta immigration judge on December 9.
On December 18, with only $3 and no identity documents, Lyttle was brought to Hidalgo, Texas, and forced to cross over to Mexico on foot. On December 29, Lyttle returned to the border and threatened to hurt himself and border agents; a report noted that he “appears to be mentally unstable.” This time, officials attempted to find his birth certificate in Rowan County — but, as Lyttle was adopted, this document was stored in Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina. “Within hours,” Lyttle was again deported back to Mexico.
Photo by qnr
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