A Michigan doctor who’s been living in the U.S. for some four decades – and is a green card holder – has been taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, apparently in connection with crimes he committed as a 17-year-old.
Dr. Lukasz Niec has been jailed since Jan. 16, when I.C.E. agents picked him up from his home, his family told KTLA sister station WXMI in Grand Rapids.
The family says Niec works at Bronson Healthcare in Kalamazoo, and has U.S. lawful permanent resident status.
Niec came to the U.S. when he was a young boy, brought over by his parents from Poland in 1979, when the country was in turmoil, according to the Washington Post. Now 43, Niec grew up in Michigan, attended medical school and has a wife, daughter and stepdaughter, the Post reported.
He doesn't speak Polish, his sister Iwona Niec-Villaire said.
The family is distraught.
“When I walked into that jail cell and I had to look at him through the glass ... I just both broke down into tears,” Niec-Villaire said. “He’s scared and he’s humbled at how everyone has rallied behind him. And the first thing he said to me was 'I’m sorry I’m putting you through this.' And I said, 'You don’t have to be sorry, you did nothing wrong.'"
Niec-Villaire, a lawyer, told WXMI that charging documents from U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicate Niec has two past misdemeanor convictions: one for destruction of property, the other for receiving stolen property.
Relatives say one of those convictions was expunged. Both are from 1992, when Niec was a teenager, the Post reported.
"These misdemeanors were just an adolescent making mistakes and learning from them," Niec-Villaire told Grand Rapids station WOOD.
A court document provided to the Post stated Niec could be subject to removal from the U.S. because of his conviction for crimes involving "moral turpitude."
The family is hoping for a hearing on Niec's situation in early February, but they believe it could be weeks or even months before they know his fate.
Niec, who practices internal medical, is being held at Calhoun County Jail. ICE had not responded to requests from comment from news media as of Monday afternoon.
Bronson Healthcare issued a statement to WXMI indicating it was following Niec's case.
Here is the complete statement:
While Bronson Healthcare, like others, respects the laws and regulations concerning United States immigration, we are following the situation surrounding the detention of Dr. Lukasz Niec closely and are doing everything we can to advocate for Dr. Niec. We have been in contact with our elected representatives and we have our immigration counsel coordinating with Dr. Niec’s attorney to explore all options to secure his prompt release from detention.
There are two misdemeanor convictions from 26 years ago that have been cited by ICE to support Dr. Niec’s detention. We believe that Dr. Niec’s recent history as a contributing member of our community is far more indicative of the type of person he is than the incidents that occurred when he was a teenager.
Since 2007, Dr. Niec has been a skilled and caring physician, a valued employee and respected member of the Bronson medical staff. His detention in a county jail while awaiting deportation proceedings simply does not make sense. Given all that he has contributed in the form of exemplary patient care, and Bronson’s ongoing need for Dr. Niec’s continued service as a hospitalist, we are requesting the community’s best interest be considered and he be allowed to return to work and his family as soon as possible.