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Tennessee man sad, disappointed after being wrongly deported


Fort Campbell, TENNESSEE (BNO NEWS) – Mark Daniel Lyttle, 31, is mentally handicapped, suffers from mental problems, requires insulin for type II diabetes and has depended on others to care for him his entire life. A U.S. Citizen, he was wrongly determined to be a Mexican, deported to Mexico, and left to fend for his survival in a foreign land with no medication, no knowledge of Spanish, and about five to ten pesos. And, following a perilous journey that consisted of wandering in Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala and jail time in Honduras, he’s back and he’s upset.

“It’s very traumatizing and it’s very infuriating. I lost all respect for my own country. I’m not perfect, but I didn’t deserve that.” Mark told BNO News in an exclusive interview. “They’re supposed to be looking out for Americans and they totally didn’t look out for me.”

The Deportation

It all started sometime after July in 2007 when he was charged with misdemeanor of assault on a female for inappropriately touching a female employee at Glencare Assisted Living, a half way house in Holly Ridge, North Carolina. He stayed in the New Hanover Correctional Center in the Wilmington, North Carolina area and after serving 85 days out of a 100-day sentence, he was supposed to be released early on October 16, 2008 for good behavior. That didn’t happen.

Instead, he was turned over to Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) on October 16, 2008. He claims that a woman who worked for the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told him that he was a Mexican citizen by the name of Jose Thomas (possibly Jose Tomas).

His mother Jeannie Lyttle described the exchange, “She said are you Jose Thomas? And he said, ‘No! That’s not my name.’ And she said,‘Yes it is and you’re from Mexico.’ She insisted that they had the same birthdate and that Mark was lying and he was from Mexico. Everything that happened to Mark was based on the report that she gave that said he was someone else. That’s not even his real dad’s [last] name… Mark had never spent a day outside the United States in his life.”

“We don’t know how she arrived at that and how she cross-referenced that he is the Jose Thomas she believed him to be.” Said Neil Rombana, Mark’s lawyer. “Frankly, if she look at his records at the halfway house, she would have determined he is who he says he is and he is a United States citizen. We think that he was profiled because he looks Hispanic and has the mental capacity of a 14 year old.”

He was then sent to an immigration detention center in Atlanta. He appeared in court before Immigration Judge William Cassidy. “I tried to tell him. I’m an American. And he tells me, ‘I have to go with what’s on the document’” Mark said. “The judge told me I have to take an ICE officers word that you’re illegal.”

His mother Jeannie reviewed his unsuccessful efforts to prove his identity, “He tried to tell him who he was. He gave them my name, said he had two brothers in the Army. I think he gave him their names. He knew his social security number. He knew where he was born. Not one person looked it up, checked the fingerprints, or validated one piece of information he was giving.”

Based on the information from the ICE, the judge determined that he wasn’t a United States citizen and ordered him deported on December 9, 2008 in Atlanta. He was banned from entering the United States for ten years.

“I told them I was American. I was born here. I’ve never been outside the United States of America. And they deported me.” Mark said.

Throughout his detainment with the ICE, Rombana says Mark asked for an attorney, to speak with his family, and to be provided with medication for bipolar disorder and type II diabetes. He requests were rejected or ignored.

Marc could have appealed his case, but he didn’t want to continue to be detained. “The appeals process can easily take six months. That’s the bottom line. Easily.” Said Rombana.

Abandoned in a Foreign Land

Shortly after he was ordered deported, the ICE dropped him off across the Texas border with Mexico. Despite being a diagnosed with Diabetes Type II and bipolar disorder, he had no medicine. He had five to ten pesos.

“How the hell did they get travel documents for someone who is not a Mexican citizen to go back to Mexico? What is going on there? That to me says somebody committed fraud.” Rombana said.

Mark tried to cross back into Texas, but the only identification he had was the deportation papers that said he was a Mexican named Jose Thomas. Mark went to the border in Mexico and they told him that he was listed as deported. “He told the custom’s officials in Texas. No, this is not my name.” said Jeannie. “I have a brother Tommy, a brother Brian in the military.” Mark told them.

“I thought I was going die in that country. I worked little constructions jobs making pesos.” Mark said, “I was on the streets with food, no medication, no water, just the clothes that were on my back.”

Mark stayed in Mexico for at least two months. He roamed villages, “Nice people gave me something to eat.” Mark said. He had no ID because he’s not a Mexican Citizen and he struggled to find work.

He received help from two Christian missionaries from the United States who were working in Mexico. They brought him to soup kitchens and provided him with shelter. “They gave me clothes, let me shower, and they tried to help me, but because I had no phone numbers on me that’s as far as they could do.” Mark said. “They got me to the next town.” One of missionaries helped him catch a bus to Mexico City.

In Mexico City, he was stopped and detained by Mexican Immigration officials and then deported to Honduras because he was not a Mexican citizen.

In Honduras, once again, he says he encountered Christian Missionaries from the United States that offered to help him. And, once again, he was picked up by immigration enforcement.

“Everytime he would run into somebody that was an American missionary trying to help him, there was always a van or a vehicle that would come and know that he was there and he’d get picked up again.” Jeannie said.

About 48 hours after he arrived in Honduras, the police incarcerated him. The prison guard, a woman named Sonya who spoke only Spanish, started tormenting Mark in jail.

“She didn’t like Americans because she kept sticking her tongue out at him and she would hit the bars of his cell every time he would be asleep.” Jeannie said. “She was yelling and screaming at him. One inmate apparently spoke English and told Mark what they were saying and they had ordered two of the inmates to take him out and kill him and they refused and at least one man openly told Mark that realized an American and he wasn’t going to shoot him.”

After he spent a month and three days in jail, Honduras immigration enforcement determined that, since he wasn’t a citizen, he needs to be deported. He was sent on a bus from the jail that was supposed to go to Guatemala, but it instead stopped in Nicaragua. He went to the police department in Nicaragua.

“He was only there for a few hours and then they put him on a bus to Guatemala.” Jeannie said.

He stayed in Guatemala for five days. In Guatemala, he again encountered Christian missionaries from the United States who let him shower, gave him new clothes, and brought him to U.S. embassy.

“Before I got to the American embassy, I hadn’t eaten in two weeks. I really could have died because I’m a diabetic type II and without food in my system, I could easily go into a diabetic coma.” said Mark. And when arrived at the embassy, they wouldn’t feed him until after they confirmed he’s a U.S. citizen.

And when arrived at the embassy, they wouldn’t feed him until after they confirmed he’s a U.S. citizen.

Through the embassy, he got in touch with his brother, Thomas Lyttle, who serves in the Army. He faxed the embassy Mark’s adoption papers, confirming his U.S. Citizenship. Only then did the embassy treat him to a meal at the McDonalds across the street.

The US Embassy issued him a temporary passport for traveling back to United States and a few days later Mark returned home.

More problems upon return

But Mark’s problems didn’t end there. Upon returning to Atlanta, he was detained again. “When he returned to Atlanta. They flagged him again and they tried to deport him again.” Jeannie said. “He said, ‘No, you can’t do it. This time I’ve got my passport.’ And they said, ‘Well, anybody could make up one of those passports. They didn’t believe his passport was real.’”

INS contacted Homeland Security who put Mark in a detention center in Atlanta.

Following this, Mark’s brother Brian got in touch with a lawyer. They started contacting upper level government officials, including the governor of North Carolina, to help negotiate Mark’s release. Mark spent at least four hours in jail.

The ICE issued following statement after his release:

“Immediately upon learning that Mr. Lyttle was claiming US Citizenship and had been detained by CBP, ICE conducted a thorough investigation and review of his file and all available information. Based upon the available information, ICE concluded that Mr. Lyttle is probably a U.S. citizen. ICE has initiated and will complete all the necessary actions to correct DHS databases.”

Who is Mark Lyttle?

Mark was born in Salisbury, North Carolina. His mother Jeannie, 60, an occupational therapist, adopted him at the age of seven.

“He came from a very dysfunctional family. A lot of history of alcoholism and abuse.” Jeannie said. “His father was black and Puerto Rican. His mother was a young, white woman whose father had physically abused her until she became mentally retarded… he had a lot of physical abuse done to him when he was a child”

Mark’s mother Jeannie had a total of five children. She adopted four children, two of them with special needs. She had one child with her husband who is now deceased.

As a child, Mark was classified as mentally handicapped and diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder as he was growing up. Later, he was diagnosed with Diabetes Type II.

During school, he participated in Special Education. He never learned any Spanish. He spent much of his childhood getting sent from mental hospital to mental hospital.

Throughout his life, he has continued to be dependent on others to meet his basic needs He has never managed his own money. That is why he was staying in a half way house prior to his arrest and his subsequent deportation.

Mark is currently staying with his brother Tommy, who serves in the US Army, in North Carolina.

A Lost Son

Throughout the entire period that Mark was gone until he contacted his brother at the U.S. Embassy, his family had no idea where he went.

“I hadn’t talked to him in three years and, honestly, I thought he’d be dead.” said his brother Brian Lyttle, who also serves in the U.S. Army. “Can you imagine just not knowing where a family member was for years? And no answers from anybody?”

The last time Mark’s mother saw him was in July 2007 when he entered a group home. After that, his mother left to take care of grandson in the Fort Campbell area whose father Tommy was overseas with Army in Korea. She thought, “Mark will be settled in a group home and I can check out that area to see if it’s nice or anything and if he wanted to move out, I was going to bring him out there.”

That’s not how it turned out. “I lost him. I called the group home he supposed to be in. They told me he left and was supposed to be in another one. I called that another one and they didn’t know where he was and then I called back again because somebody should know that he was there.” Jeannie said.

Eventually, she was informed that an employee at a group homes that he had been put him in a Jacksonville jail.

“So, when I called there, he told me that he was there but I couldn’t talk to him and they wouldn’t be able to give him any messages. “ Jeannie said.

“And then I said, ‘Ok. Well then I’ll write to him cause I wanted to give him my new cell phone number which they wouldn’t give to him.’ And I wrote him a letter with everybody’s phone number just to make sure he had it and it came back refused” Jeannie said.

After she was told Mark was released from Prison on November 28th of 2007, she recalls, “Everybody was looking for Mark.” Her son’s friend searched through newspaper obituaries checking for a death notice. They contacted hospitals and the police, but they couldn’t find any trace of their son.

Mark’s brother Tommy conducted an internet search and found a Mark D. Lyttle in Atlanta, but he couldn’t locate his address or determine his contact info.

Last Sunday evening, she received call from her son Tommy about Mark, Jeanne tells the story, “Tommy said. ‘Mom are you sitting down’ and I said ‘yes.’ He said, ‘you’re not going to believe this, but I found Mark.’ And he said ‘actually I didn’t find him, he found me.’ I said, ‘where is he? Don’t tell me it. You’re going to tell me he is in Atlanta, right?’ and he goes, ‘No, he was there, but he is now in Guatemala. I was just like ‘What?’ I was just numb. This was just like the craziest thing that could happen to anybody.”

Other cases

“I still feel like I’m in shock and disbelief because I’m extremely patriotic.” Jeannie said, “I love this country. I cry when I sing the star spangled banner. I am so moved and I believe so whole-heartedly in country and to found out they’re doing this. It makes me wonder, how many other people? How many are stuck overseas and can’t get back in?”

Mark isn’t the only U.S. Citizen that has been arrested. “There are a tremendous amount of cases like this.” Rombana said.

In 2007, the Vera Institute immigration lawyers found 322 people in immigration detention centers with potential claims to be U.S. Citizens.

Earlier this year, an AP investigation found 55 cases of U.S. citizens detained in immigration detention centers.

During his time in Mexico, Mark noticed other U.S. Citizens.

“Mom, there’s a lot that went over to Mexico and supposedly are Americans.” Mark told Jeannie.


Even though Mark has arrived home, he and his family still aren’t close to settled.

“I’m not the type that goes around suing everybody, but by golly this time I want justice to be served. This is outrageous.” Jeannie said.

“We have kidnapping, false imprisonment; we have a person who is a bipolar, who requested on numerous occasions 1) to see an attorney 2) someone to contact his mother and 3) for medication so he would be stable to be able to properly communicate with the court. And everything that was requested was denied or ignored for purposes of giving him an opportunity to have due process done.“ Rombana said.

“If there’s no repercussions for this, no ramifications, it’s like these U.S. government agencies are operating with impunity.” said an exasperated Brian. “This is just unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable.”

“We live in day and age where if you don’t question everything, then people get away stuff,” said Brian. “You think we have protection. You think we have rights. Then, something as crazy as this happens and it’s atrocious, and you’re like where were we at when this was going on?”

Mark still hasn’t recovered from this ordeal.

“I still have tremors in my hairs. It’s real shocking to tell you the truth. How can America treat me like this?” Mark exclaimed. “After all this years, I’ve been an American. How could they do this to me? What did I do to deserve that?”

2009 Apr 29