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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Human Rights
By Esha Bhandari, ACLU Equal Justice Works Fellow

This week's New Yorker features the harrowing ordeal of Mark Lyttle, a U.S. citizen with mental disabilities who was deported to Mexico. Lyttle was born in North Carolina and has psychiatric and cognitive disabilities. He was inexplicably referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2008 after being misidentified as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico even though he had never been to Mexico, shared no Mexican heritage, and did not speak any Spanish. As the New Yorker article notes, "Lyttle is brown-skinned," and "the vagaries of race and ethnicity obviously played a part" in causing him to be singled out for immigration enforcement.

ICE detained Lyttle for 51 days, despite substantial evidence that he is a U.S. citizen, and put him in removal proceedings, where he was forced to defend himself without ever having the assistance of a lawyer. Lyttle was ordered removed in December 2008, and forced to cross the Mexican border on foot with only $3 in his pocket. Lyttle endured 125 days wandering through Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, sleeping in streets and shelters, and even being imprisoned in a Honduran jail, before he was finally referred to a U.S. consular officer in Guatemala who actually listened to his story. The officer obtained confirmation of Lyttle's U.S. citizenship by calling one of his brothers who serves in the U.S. military. Only through the extensive efforts of Lyttle's family and a lawyer was he finally able to return.

Lyttle's tale is unfortunately far from unique. Although no exact numbers exist, ICE regularly detains and deports U.S. citizens without ever providing them with a lawyer. And the U.S. continues to run a system of detention and deportation that fails adequately to protect the rights of vulnerable individuals like Lyttle.

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RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) is strongly criticizing a state House bill that would bring an Arizona-style anti-immigrant law to North Carolina, as well as other provisions targeting undocumented immigrants. Filed yesterday by four House Republicans, H.B. 786 would allow law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop and detain them for up to 24 hours, make it harder for undocumented immigrants to post bail, require anyone who is undocumented and arrested to pay the cost of their detention, and would allow law enforcement to impound and seize the vehicles of undocumented drivers.  

“This is a harsh, Arizona-style anti-immigrant bill that will lead to racial profiling and send a message that North Carolina is a hostile environment for aspiring citizens,” said Sarah Preston, ACLU-NC Policy Director. “The proposal gives police the power to harass people based solely on suspicion of their immigration status, opening the door to stops based on stereotypes and racial bias rather than facts and evidence.”

The bill also rejects matricula consular IDs issued by the Mexican government as an acceptable form of identification, while authorizing undocumented immigrants to obtain an annual driver’s permit that will be vertical and include the driver’s thumbprint.  

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On the day the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the first of two landmark cases challenging the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage, thousands of people gathered across North Carolina yesterday to rally in support of marriage equality for LGBT couples.

ACLU-NC Executive Director Jennifer Rudinger was one of several speakers to address a crowd of hundreds from the steps of the Wake County Courthouse in downtown Raleigh. She made the following remarks: 

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RALEIGH – An investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found that the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office “has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the United States Constitution and federal law,” according to a letter sent today by Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO).

The findings show evidence that ACSO “unlawfully targets, stops, detains, and arrests Latinos” in a manner that is “intentional and motivated by the Sheriff’s prejudices against Latinos.” A statistical study commissioned by the Department of Justice finds that ACSO deputies are between 4 and 10 times more likely to stop Latino than non-Latino drivers.

The DOJ report chronicles ACSO’s efforts to mask the disparate racial impact of their policing tactics. ACSO often failed to record a checkpoint as required by law. ACSO and Alamance County also “persistently delayed providing important information and otherwise obstructed the division’s investigation,” according to the report.

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