Jan. 22 (UPI) -- A hospital in Michigan is fighting for the release of a Polish-born doctor who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after living in the United States for 40 years.
Kalamazoo-based Bronson HealthCare said it is closely following 43-year-old Dr. Lukasz Niec's detention case and "are doing everything we can to advocate for Dr. Niec" in a statement released Monday.
"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," Bronson said.
Niec, who moved to the United States with his family when he was 3 years old, was taken from his home by three ICE agents on Jan. 16 and detained.
"I received a phone call from Lukasz that he had been detained," his wife Rachelle Burkhart-Niec said. "I kept saying over and over to stop pranking me."
The couple married in 2016 and each have one daughter from previous relationships. Burkhart-Niec said her husband holds a permanent green card.
She and his sister Iwona Niec-Villaire believe the arrest stems from a 1992 misdemeanor arrest for property damage when he was 17.
"Now, they're using this expunged case that's stamped 'non-public record' against him," Niec-Villaire said. "This is a man who's needed in the community and not detained in Calhoun County Jail."
Niec's colleague Penny Rathburn said she spoke with him by phone on Monday.
"He doesn't understand why he's there either, anymore than anyone else," she said.
Rathburn called for different medical communities to forward letters to an immigration judge in support of Niec and estimated about 30 letters had been sent by Monday.
"The consensus about his character is overwhelming with no single complaint I have ever heard from anyone over 10 years," Kwsai Al-Rahhal, M.D. wrote.
It is unclear when Niec will face a judge, but supporters said a hearing could take place as early as Friday.