Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers recently arrested and jailed a doctor from his home in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He now faces deportation to his birth country, Poland, which he fled when he was just 3 years old.
Lukasz Niec worked at the Bronson Methodist Hospital. He practically grew up in the U.S. and had been living as a green card holder for almost 40 years.
At the time of the arrest, the 43-year-old internal medicine physician was with his two daughters. He is now waiting for his fate in an ICE detention center, waiting to see whether he will be sent back to a country where he has no family and doesn’t even know the language.
“In 1979, my parents were both doctors — [they] left Poland and took two suitcases and two small children ... and they came here for a better life for their kids,” explained Niec’s sister, Iwona Niec-Villaire.
“He cannot (go) back to Poland, a country he doesn't know, he has no family at, both our parents passed away in the United States, he doesn't know anyone, he wouldn't know where to go,” she said. “He doesn't even speak Polish.”
ICE hasn’t given a reason for the doctor’s arrest, but the family believes he was arrested on the basis of misdemeanor arrests that took place when he was 17 — one of which was for receiving and concealing stolen property, the other for the destruction of property worth less than $100.
Niec pleaded guilty to the convictions almost 25 years ago as part of a plea deal under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which enabled young offenders to live with a clean criminal record if they keep out of trouble.
The doctor didn’t know ICE did not honor the plea agreement. The agency not only knew about the superannuated conviction, but was also free to completely ignore the terms of the state-mediated deal.
“Now, they're using this expunged case that's stamped non-public record against him,” Niec-Villaire told WWMT.
Even though Niec’s immigration attorney believes the case against him isn’t very strong and will eventually fall apart, the process may be time consuming. Until then, the doctor may be stuck in detention away from his wife, daughters and his career — and no one knows for how long.
His colleagues at Bronson are outraged over this situation and hope the doctor will not be separated from his family.
“He's exactly the kind of person our immigration policies should be encouraging to prosper here, he's been here for 40 years, this is a ridiculous situation,” said Dr. Michael Raphelson.
Thumbnail/Banner Image: Reuters, ICE, handout