The ACLU of Georgia and the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Mark Lyttle, a U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican descent with mental disabilities who was wrongfully deported to Mexico and forced to endure over four months of living on the streets and in the shelters and prisons of Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Lyttle's entanglement with immigration authorities began when he was about to be released from a North Carolina jail where he was serving a short sentence for inappropriately touching a worker's backside in a halfway house that serves individuals with mental disorders. Despite having ample evidence that Lyttle was a U.S. citizen - including his social security number, the names of his parents, his sworn statements that he was born in the United States and criminal record checks - officialss from the North Carolina Department of Correction referred him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as an undocumented immigrant whose country of birth was Mexico. Lyttle had never been to Mexico, shared no Mexican hertiage, spoke no Spanish, and did not claim to be from Mexico.

The state of North Carolina has an agreement with ICE requiring state officials to report all incarcerated individuals who they believe were born in other countries. ICE began investigating Luttle and sent him to the Stewart Detention Facility, an immigration detention center in Lumpkin, Georgia where he spent six weeks. Although ICE knew of Lyttle's long and documented history of mental illness and noted that he did not comprehend the investigation of his status, he was not offered legal assistance and was deported to Mexico. Lyttle was left alone and penniless in Mexico and unable to communicate in Spanish. Mexican authorities sent him to Honduras, where he was imprisoned and faced with guards who threatened to shoot him. Honduran ooficials sent him to Guatemala and, eventually, he made his way to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City. Within a day, embassy officials contacted one of Lyttle's three brothers at the military base where he was serving, leading to Lttle being issued a U.S. passport. His brother wired him money and Lyttle was soon on a flight to Atlanta.

Upon his arrival, border officials, seeing his history of ICE investigations, held and questioned him for several hours before letting him go. During this four month ordeal, Lyttle was unable to take his medications to treat his mental illnesses and was subject to cycles of manic activity and depression. He is now living in Griffin, Georgia, where he is recovering and receiving medication for his mental health problems.

STATUS

Nearly two years after the filing of initial complaints in Georgia and North Carolina district courts in 2010, the cases have become full blown lawsuits. These lawsuits are now ongoing in federal court as of March 31st, 2012. According to the most recent ruling in the suit by Judge Clay D. Land for the Middle District of Georgia, Mark Lyttle will be allowed to pursue claims against five agents in ICE for violating his 4th & 5th Amendment rights, and will also be allowed to seek damages from the United States under the Federal Torts Claims Act.

ACLU Press Release on Filing of the Lawsuits
Press Release on case settlement

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