The U.S. government is being sued for deporting a mentally disabled Georgia man to Mexico after being mistaken for an unauthorized immigrant.
Mark Lyttle, 33, who was born in North Carolina, but lived in Georgia at the time, is seeking unspecified damages and new safeguards to protect the rights of U.S. citizens and people with mental disabilities.
In a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, on September of 2008, Lyttle was misidentified as an undocumented immigrant while serving a 100-day sentence for a misdemeanor assault charge. A spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Corrections said this happened because, when booked, Lyttle said he was from Mexico City.
U.S. officials say he later agreed to be deported, but Lyttle’s lawyer said he was coerced into to approving the documents, and says the man has mental disabilities including bipolar disorder, and a history of physical abuse and emotional problems.
In December of 2008, with a judge’s approval, Lyttle was deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and with $5 in his pocket, was dropped off in Mexico. After four months of making his way through Mexico, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, Lyttle convinced a U.S. Embassy official to contact his two brothers who were serving in the U.S. military.
His brothers cleared things up and, within 24 hours, Lyttle received his passport with help from the embassy official.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security later acquiesced that Lyttle was indeed, a U.S. citizen.
Lyttle, who is now a landscaper, told a reporter, “They took my freedom from me, they took my dignity from me. I’m going to do to them what they did to me.”