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Mentally Disabled U.S. Citizen Deported

Mentally Disabled U.S. Citizen Deported

The ACLU has filed lawsuits on behalf of Mark Lyttle, a U.S. citizen with a mental disability who was wrongfully deported to Mexico.

Lyttle was serving a short sentence in a North Carolina prison for inappropriately touching a worker in a psychiatric hospital. Prison officials contend he gave his birthplace as Mexico City, which they found as reason enough to turn him over to immigration officials. ICE detained Lyttle for six weeks in Georgia and had him sign papers authorizing his deportation. His lawyers allege ICE ignored the records of his Social Security numer as well as the fact that he is mentally disabled. In addition, they failed to inform his family members of his detention and deportation.

Lyttle, who is actually of Puerto Rican descent and speaks no Spanish, was sent to Texas and forced to cross over to Mexico on foot peniless and still wearing his prison jumpsuit. Over the course of four months, he wandered around and was imprisoned in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras since he had no documents to prove his identity or citizenship. He eventually found the U.S. embassy in Guatemala, where officials were able to contact his brother who sent him money to fly home. Upon arrival he was detained by immigration officials who tried to deport him again. A lawyer hired by his family was able to get him released, and days later the Department of Homeland Security filed a motion to terminate deportation proceedings since he was indeed a U.S. citizen.

Deputy Director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project Judy Rabinovitz remarks, “Our Constitution and our laws demand fair treatment for people with mental disabilities in any court, including immigration courts. Pushing Mr. Lyttle through proceedings that he clearly couldn’t understand and then deporting him was not only inhumane but a gross violation of his due process rights.”

Azadeh Shahshahani, Director of the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia adds,”Mr. Lyttle’s disabilities were obvious and well documented but the government offered him no legal assistance and worse still, failed to even perform the normal verification procedures on his legal status.”

Lawyers also contend he was discriminated against and assumed to be in the U.S. illegally since he is Latino.

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the prison and immigration officials in North Carolina, and has filed a second lawsuit against the federal government requesting a jury trial. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said the department would review the complaint and respond in court, while ICE refused to comment.

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7:48AM PST on Feb 7, 2011

What an outrageous way to treat anyone, but especially someone with such obvious mental disability!

6:14PM PDT on Oct 20, 2010

That poor man. Unbelievable.

3:52PM PDT on Oct 20, 2010

the government run immigration bureau is just another part of the gov't that cannot do their job correctly.
the gov't is taking our tax money and paying these mindless idiots not to do their job correctly.
if I did not do my job I would be fired These morons don,t do there job correctly and still get paid. This is why this country is in trouble. We are stuck with morons hiring bigger morons. God help us all

2:31PM PDT on Oct 20, 2010

Disabled people are often mistreated, neglected and overlooked by society. I have 3 autistic children and I worry about how the public will treat and care for them when I am gone. Luckily I have 3 other children who I hope will look after their siblings, but many disabled people have little or no family to be that safeguard.

1:18PM PDT on Oct 20, 2010

What a circus and only to find out that the poor guy was a US citizen after all!!

11:25AM PDT on Oct 20, 2010

Worse things happen to people with any kind of mental disability or illness every day. Since the federal government decided to "mainstream" people with mental health issues they were supposed to go to all the homes for them in the states. Problem was there were no community-based alternatives to large institutions which the feds stopped funding. Now you find people with mental illness homeless, in jail and dead. There are advocacy groups for persons with mental health issues and for their families. Join one. Give them money. Look for groups like your local mental health association or call United Way and ask for suggestions.

10:20AM PDT on Oct 20, 2010

This is outrageous! The officials who did that should lose their jobs, at the very least. They recklessly endangered that man's life and blatantly ignored due process laws.

7:39AM PDT on Oct 20, 2010

This is just disgusting and tears down my faith in our system.

7:17AM PDT on Oct 20, 2010

There is no excuse for this ignorance!!

6:38AM PDT on Oct 20, 2010

Absolutely appalling!

He was in prison for a crime which had occurred at a psychiatric unit, there the prison system knew he had mental health problems, and he had a Social Security number. There is no excuse at all for the way he has been treated.

I doubt whether his mental condition has been helped by this in any way and feel so sorry for him and his family.

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