LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union sued the U.S. government on Monday over what the rights group said was the wrongful deportation of a developmentally disabled U.S. citizen who is now missing in Mexico.
ACLU spokesman Michael Soller said 29-year-old Pedro Guzman was serving a 120-day sentence in a Los Angeles jail for trespassing when he was deported to Tijuana, Mexico, on May 10 or May 11 for an alleged immigration violation.
The group's suit filed in U.S. District Court seeks to have the deportation order suspended and for the U.S. government to help locate Guzman.
Guzman, who was born in Los Angeles and lived about 70 miles north in Lancaster with his mother, could barely read and write, Soller said. He did not know his phone number and kept his brother's telephone number on a piece of paper.
But the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in a written statement denied Guzman's deportation, which followed immigration checks at the jail, was improper.
"ICE only processes persons for removal when all available credible evidence suggests the person is an alien," ICE officials said. "That process was followed here and ICE has no reason to believe that it improperly removed Pedro Guzman."
The ACLU said Guzman told booking officers that he was born in California.
"This is a recurring nightmare for every person of color of immigrant roots," Mark Rosenbaum, the legal director of the ACLU in southern California, said in a statement.
The only telephone call Guzman made came shortly after his deportation, on May 11 and was received by his sister in law, Soller said.
"The last thing she heard him do was ask someone nearby 'Where am I?' and then the line went dead," Soller said. Guzman has not been heard from since and is assumed lost in Mexico.
Members of Guzman's family, including his mother, brother and sister in law, have traveled to Tijuana and searched shelters, jails and hospitals trying to find him.
"We're asking the U.S. government to take responsibility for finding him," Soller said. "The family just wants him back."