GREENVILLE, N.C. (CN) – Federal officials deported a mentally impaired U.S. citizen to Mexico though he “had never been to Mexico, shared no Mexican heritage, spoke no Spanish, and did not claim to be from Mexico,” the man claims in Federal Court. Mark Daniel Lyttle, 33, who is epileptic and diabetic, spent 115 days wandering in Mexico and Central America, sleeping in streets and prisons in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala before finding his way to a U.S. Embassy, which got him a passport and sent him home to his family. But when he arrived at the Atlanta airport, Lyttle says, Immigration and Customs Enforcement started the whole ordeal over again.
Upon arrival in Atlanta – with a newly issued U.S. passport – Lyttle says, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents flagged him “as an alien with ‘a lengthy criminal history,'” and arrested and detained him, interrogated him, and despite being showed his new passport, “commenced new deportation proceedings” against him.
This time, the Department of Homeland Security stepped in to stop the proceedings. To this day, Lyttle says, no government official has come forward to explain why these things happened to him, or to apologize.
Lyttle says he is a lifelong sufferer of cognitive problems, including bipolar disorder, and that he has epilepsy and diabetes.
On his first go-round, he says was placed in a mental health ward shortly after his arrest. Despite telling officials he was a U.S. citizen, of Puerto Rican descent, his intake form lists him as being “oriental” and “alien” and his birth country as Mexico.
“Without basis for believing Lyttle was not a U.S. citizen, and indeed with ample evidence that Lyttle was a U.S. citizen, officials from the N.C. department of Correction referred him to [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] as an undocumented immigrant,” the complaint states.
After two months of unlawful detention at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., Lyttle was deported to Reynosa, Mexico in December 2008.
His deportation was carried out despite his continued assertion that he was a U.S. citizen, and after an administrative removal hearing during which he received no legal assistance.
Lyttle’s attorneys says that despite long being aware of shortcomings in its immigration detention and removal procedures, neither the Department of Justice nor the Department of Homeland Security has rectified the situation, “leaving citizens like Lyttle vulnerable to erroneous apprehension, detention and deportation.”
In this case, the attorneys said, the government failed in its constitutional charge to protect the liberty and security of a U.S. citizen, placing his fate in the hands of officials who lacked proper training and oversight, causing Lyttle profound physical and psychological injuries.
The 41-page complaints describes Lyttle’s plight in Mexico and Central America. In the United States, his attorneys say, state and federal officials treated Lyttle with “a reckless disregard for human life and liberty.”
His treatment was so abusive he tried to kill himself in ICE detention even before he was deported: On or about November 17, 2008, while in the custody of ICE and under the supervision of the CCA [Corrections Corporation of America] as operators of SDC, Mr. Lyttle attempted to commit suicide by ingesting 60 tablets of Glucophage, a medication provided to Mr. Lyttle by the SDC [Stewart Detention Center] as treatment for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Mr. Lyttle was treated for toxic drug overdose at Doctors Hospital
Columbus, in Columbus, Georgia, and released after several days of monitoring and close observation,” the complaint states.
Then came his ordeal in Central America, his eventual return, and his rearrest.
Lyttle seeks injunctive, compensatory and punitive damages on claims of violations of the 4th, 5th and 14th Amendments, false imprisonment, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and state claims.
He is represented by Ann Marie Dooley and Jeremy L. McKinney of McKinney & Justice in Greensboro, N.C.