Lukasz Niec was 5 years old when his parents brought him and his sister to the United States from Poland. With two suitcases in tow, his parents — both doctors — left behind a country on the verge of social turmoil. It was 1979, about two years before the country’s authoritarian communist government declared martial law.
Niec received a temporary green card and, in 1989, became a lawful permanent resident. He grew up in Michigan, went to medical school, became a doctor, and raised a daughter and stepdaughter.
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.
But on Tuesday morning, immigration authorities arrested Niec at his home, just after he had sent his 12-year-old stepdaughter off to school. Niec, a physician specializing in internal medicine at Bronson Healthcare Group in Kalamazoo, Mich., has been detained in a county jail ever since, awaiting a bond hearing and possible deportation.
“It’s shocking,” said his sister Iwona Niec Villaire, a corporate lawyer. “No one can really understand what happened here.”
According to his “notice to appear” from the Department of Homeland Security, Niec’s detention stems from two misdemeanor convictions from 26 years ago. In January 1992, Niec was convicted of malicious destruction of property under $100. In April of that year, he was convicted of receiving and concealing stolen property over $100 and a financial transaction device.
Because Niec was convicted of two crimes involving “moral turpitude,” stemming from two separate incidents, he is subject to removal, immigration authorities wrote in the notice to appear, citing the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Both of the offenses took place when he was a teenager. He associated himself “with some bad people” his sister said. The first of the incidents involved an altercation with a driver after a car crash, Niec’s sister said. He was one of multiple teenagers in the car at the time.
The second of those convictions was eventually expunged from his criminal record, his sister said, as part of a guilty plea through Michigan’s Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, a program intended to help young offenders avoid the stigma of a criminal conviction. But even though the crime was scrubbed off his public record, it can still be used against him for removal from the country, his sister said.
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.
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SOURCE: USA Today, John Bacon