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Doctor who fled Poland faces deportation from the US

Lukasz Niec, a physician at Kalamazoo’s Bronson Methodist Hospital, was arrested Tuesday by ICE agents and jailed. 

A Polish doctor in Michigan who fled to the US with his family nearly 40 years ago faces deportation because of 18 previous run-ins with the law, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said on Tuesday.

Lukasz Niec, who has a permanent green card, was home with his two daughters last Tuesday morning when three ICE agents showed up, placed him in handcuffs and took him to jail. 

The 43-year-old internal medicine physician at Kalamazoo’s Bronson Methodist Hospital has spent the past several days at the Calhoun County jail awaiting his fate. 

A week after his arrest, ICE said Niec was being processed for removal from the country because of two convictions for misdemeanors back in 1992, according to MLive.com. 

‘Mr. Niec entered the United States lawfully in 1979. He is amenable to removal proceedings as a result of two 1992 state convictions for malicious destruction of property and receiving stolen property, both of which are crimes involving moral turpitude,’ ICE said. 

‘He most recently came under agency scrutiny as a result of 18 encounters with local law enforcement.’

Niec will stay in ICE custody pending the results of removal proceedings.

‘As ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan has made clear, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,’ ICE said.

‘All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.’

Niec pleaded guilty to the charges under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which allows young first time offenders to avoid a criminal record if they never offend again. 

 

The 43-year-old doctor was home when his two daughters when three Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up and placed him in handcuffs. Niec (left) is pictured here with his wife, Rachelle Burkart-Niec, and kids

The family said Niec was unaware when he accepted the plea agreement that ICE does not honor it. 

In 1988, the US Congress passed a law which said that those who have permanent residence in the United States are not subject to deportation unless they commit ‘aggravated felonies’ – or seriously crimes like murder and drug trafficking.

After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Congress passed more stringent laws which expanded the list of crimes that would give authorities the right to deport immigrants and asylum-seekers.

The list of more than 20 crimes includes counterfeit, perjury, obstruction of justice, domestic violence, drug or weapons offenses, and crimes of moral turpitude.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, moral turpitude is not defined under federal law.

But courts in the US have designated crimes of moral turpitude as ‘an act that is inherently base, vile, or depraved, and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society in general.’

These crimes, which fall under both categories of felonies and misdemeanors, usually include violations against a person, including assault, fraud, perjury, robbery, theft, and bribery.

ICE says that any permanent resident convicted of two crimes of moral turpitude would face deportation regardless of how long that person has been in the country.

Local authorities say Niec has 22 criminal cases on file against him stemming from 18 contacts with law enforcement.

These include no proof of insurance violations, seven speeding tickets, failing to change address on a driver license, causing an accident, careless driving, seat belt violation, driving without due care, and parking near a fire hydrant.

In 2008, he pleaded guilty in Kalamazoo County to operating a vehicle while impaired by liquor.

As part of a plea agreement, Niec abided by the terms of his probation and the case was subsequently dismissed.

In 2013, he was put on trial on a domestic violence charge. The jury found him not guilty.

“Almost all the 18 number are traffic violations,” his sister, Iwona Niec Villaire, told MLive.com.

Niec’s employer, Bronson HealthCare, released a statement on Tuesday saying it was working to try and get the doctor released from ICE custody.

“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,” Bronson said.

‘There are two misdemeanor convictions from 26 years ago that have been cited by ICE to support Dr. Niec’s detention,’ Bronson said.

The family believes Niec was arrested because of two misdemeanor convictions from when he was 17

The family believes Niec was arrested because of two misdemeanor convictions from when he was 17

‘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.’

Niec’s family told WOOD TV that there’s a chance the doctor could be deported to Poland, a country he left with his parents and sister nearly 40 years ago. 

Iwona Niec-Villaire said her brother is ‘shell-shocked’ about being arrested and the possibility he may be deported.

‘We did go see him on Wednesday, he was shaking,’ she said. 

Niec-Villaire, an attorney, told the outlet that her family left Poland in 1979 for a ‘better life’. 

She said her brother was three years old at the time and this is the only home he’s ever known. 

‘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.’ 

Niec and his family fled Poland in 1979, when he was 3, for a better life in the US. The doctor is pictured on the right with his sister, Iwona Niec-Villaire

Niec and his family fled Poland in 1979, when he was 3, for a better life in the US. The doctor is pictured on the right with his sister, Iwona Niec-Villaire

‘Now, they’re using this expunged case that’s stamped non-public record against him,’ Niec-Villaire told WWMT.

Niec could get a bond hearing in February but his family thinks a judge will deny bond because of the misdemeanors. 

If it is denied, Niec will remain in jail until it’s decided whether he can return home or be deported. 

‘Until this gets heard, which could be up to six months, he could be stuck in a prison cell and not helping and being with his family,’ Niec-Villaire told WWMT.

His wife, Rachelle Burkart-Niec, added: ‘He’s an excellent physician, he’s loving, he’s caring, he’s an honorable husband and he’s always helping others.’ The couple has two children. 

Niec could get a bond hearing in February 

Niec could get a bond hearing in February 

Niec’s colleagues at Bronson are outraged at the situation and are hoping he 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,’ Dr. Michael Raphelson said.

Marc Asch, an immigration attorney in Kalamazoo, told WWMT in the last year ICE has been going after cases it wouldn’t have made a priority in the past.

‘These days there’s less discretion being exercised in who they go after, they’re being more aggressive, generally speaking,’ he said.



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