President Trump’s unlimited antipathy towards immigration has enabled the agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau (ICE) to reach new lows in abusing their powers to interpret immigration statutes and initiate deportations.
Now, WOOD-TV, an NBC affiliate in Michigan, is reporting one of the most egregious abuses by ICE to date.
Dr. Lukasz Niec practices internal medicine in Kalamazoo, Michigan where he works at Bronson Methodist Hospital. Having been brought to the United States from his native Poland when he was just five-years-old, Dr. Niec has grown up and lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident green card holder for nearly 40 years now.
Currently, however, Dr. Niec is sitting in an ICE detention center awaiting a ruling on whether he will be sent back to a native country he doesn’t know and where he has no family and doesn’t even speak the language.
Dr. Niec was at home with his pre-teen daughters when three ICE officers unexpectedly showed up and took him into custody. Dr. Niec is at a loss to explain why he was arrested by the immigration authorities, given his status as a legal resident.
He has been a model physician and other doctors that he works with attest to his sterling character.
“He’s been, just completely the model physician that you want a physician to be,” said Dr. Hussein Akl, a colleague at Bronson Internal Medicine. “The only danger I can see him on is when he’s swinging his golf swing.”
“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, specialist in palliative medicine.
The only blemish on Dr. Niec’s reputation is a record of two juvenile misdemeanor convictions that took place when he was only 17-years-old, one for receiving and concealing stolen property, the other for the destruction of property worth less than $100. Dr. Niec pleaded guilty to these charges more than 25 years ago under a plea deal, the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, that leaves young offenders with a clean criminal record if they keep out of trouble.
Obviously, Dr. Niec managed to leave his adolescent mistakes behind and learn from them, moving on to a successful career in medicine, but while he and everyone else in his life believed that his unlawful youthful behavior had been stricken from the record and forgotten, as the plea deal promised, it came as a huge surprise that not only did ICE know about the superannuated conviction, but, as a federal agency, they were free to completely ignore the terms of the state mediated deal .
A Kalamazoo immigration lawyer, Marc Asch, told WOOD-TVthat ICE has expanded its scope since Trump took office, pursuing cases that they would never have previously attempted before.
“These days there’s less discretion being exercised in who they go after, they’re being more aggressive, generally speaking,” Asch said.
The immigration attorney also said that ICE’s case is most likely not very solid and could fall apart. leaving Dr. Niec free to remain in the country he’s called home for the last four decades, but the process could take years to resolve with the doctor stuck in detention, separated from his wife and daughters, his friends, and his patients for the entire time.
Like most of Trump’s immigration policies, the expansion of immigration enforcement to target legal as well as illegal immigrants and to attempts to deport people for long-forgotten misdemeanors that bear little relevance to their current behavior makes little sense from a standpoint of protecting our citizens or our borders.
ICE’s attempts at the second-guessing of decisions made by state justice departments is not only cruel and unproductive, it may not even be legal. The courts will ultimately decide, but the lives being ruined in the meantime will have a hard time recovering from ICE’s abuses of power.