A man with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, who was banished from the country for four months, will receive $175,000 in compensation from the Department of Justice.
In 2008, Mark Lyttle was allegedly coerced into signing papers stating that he was a Mexican citizen, despite being a life-long U.S. citizen who spoke Spanish. With just four dollars in his pocket, he then spent four months forced to live on the streets of Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala, being arrested multiple times and severely beaten in a Honduran prison, according to a lawsuit filed on his behalf in October 2010 by the ACLU of North Carolina and the ACLU of Georgia.
The U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Georgia refused to dismiss Lyttle’s case in March, finding potential violations of the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause, the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable search and seizures, and the Federal Tort Claims Act claims against the United States for false imprisonment, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The vast majority of individuals in deportation hearings are denied legal representation.
“Lyttle’s case is unfortunately not unique, but demonstrates the systemic failures of (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the federal government to protect the rights of individuals with mental disabilities,” the ACLU stated in a news release. “The current lack of procedural safeguards—including no right to appointed counsel—means that even U.S. citizens can end up in immigration detention and be deported. It is a growing problem as more people are being swept up under the nation’s unreasonable detention and deportation practices.”