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Polish-born doctor detained by ICE after 40 years in United States

| Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, 4:48 p.m.
Lukasz Niec and his family.
Lukasz Niec and his family.

A Polish-born doctor in Michigan who has lived in the United States since he was 5 years old could face deportation because of two misdemeanors committed more than quarter century ago, his family says.

Lukasz Niec, 43, is an internist in Kalamazoo who has been a permanent resident since 1989.

Niec, now 43, never fathomed that his legal status in the United States would become an issue. With a renewed green card, and nearly 40 years in the country, his Polish nationality was an afterthought for Niec, his sister told The Washington Post. He doesn't even speak Polish.

He was taken into custody at his home Jan. 16 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, family members told the local WOOD-TV.

ICE has not responded to requests for information from The Washington Post and declined to comment to WOOD-TV. Since Thursday, a spokesman for the ICE Detroit Field Office has not responded to requests for information from MLive, except to say he was looking into the case.

The "notice to appear" stems from two misdemeanors from 26 years ago — malicious destruction of property under $100 in January 1992, and a few months later receiving and concealing stolen property over $100. Niec was 17 at the time, and the youthful offender proceeding allowed young first offenders to avoid a criminal record if they stayed out of trouble.

But ICE is a federal agency, and family members complained that Niec did not know that the agency was not bound to honor the agreement, the family says.

"These misdemeanors were just an adolescent making mistakes and learning from them," Niec's sister, Iwona Niec-Villaire, told WOOD-TV.

There have been other issues, however. The Michigan news website MLive reports that Niec pleaded guilty to a 2008 operating impaired by liquor offense in Kalamazoo County. As part of the plea agreement, the plea was withdrawn and the case dismissed after he completed probation. In 2013, a jury found him not guilty on a domestic violence charge.

Disposition of Niec's case could take months, and his family fears the worst. Niec's wife, Rachelle Burkart-Niec, stands behind her husband.

"He's an excellent physician, he's loving, he's caring, he's an honorable husband and he's always helping others," she told WOOD-TV.

Niec's sister said her brother doesn't even speak Polish.

"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," said Niec-Villaire, a corporate lawyer. "It's shocking. No one can really understand what happened here."

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