Thursday, April 30, 2009

Deporting suspected aliens -- a cautionary tale

The News & Observer reports today about a mildly retarded, mentally ill citizen, Mark Lyttle, who was deported to Mexico and subsequently other Central American countries after serving a short prison sentence.
U.S. immigration officials confirmed this week that they wrongly deported Lyttle, 31, who his family says is mentally ill and suffers from mild retardation, in December after finding him in a North Carolina prison. He and his lawyer say he spent four months bouncing among Latin American prisons and homeless shelters before ending up this month at a U.S. embassy in Guatemala, where officials confirmed his citizenship.
When Lyttle finally arrived in a U.S. airport, federal officials again tried to deport him.

Lyttle's story should give pause to proponents of deportation, like our local sheriff BJ Barnes. Proving citizenship is a simple matter for most people; however, for poor people, especially those who may be homeless, mentally challenged, mentally ill, or otherwise marginally connected to society, it can be incredibly difficult.

In their rush to throw all illegal aliens out, proponents of deportation overlook the fact bureaucracies make mistakes and that citizenship and residency status can be misidentified.

In this case, the mistake sent a disabled citizen on a bewildering four-month odyssey through Central America. It shouldn't have happened.