DETROIT (WOOD) — The family of a Kalamazoo doctor detained by federal immigration officials expects him to be able to come home as early as Thursday after a federal judge set his bond at $10,000.
A $10,000 bond is fairly high for an immigration case, but it means Dr. Lukasz Niec can remain free as his immigration case progresses.
“We’re so relieved and we’re elated. We’re so happy to have Lukasz home with us tomorrow,” Niec’s sister, Iwona Niec-Villaire, told reporters outside the Detroit courthouse where her brother’s bail hearing was held Wednesday. “We’re so grateful to Judge (Mark) Jebson to taking the time this afternoon and looking at all the facts of the case and ruling that Lukasz is able to come home and help his family and community, be the caregiver that he is. And I appreciate everybody’s help and support on this. We couldn’t have done it without you.”
Niec, 43, came to the U.S. from Poland as a child about 40 years ago. He has been in the Calhoun County Jail since he was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents Jan. 16 for administrative immigration violations. ICE says two misdemeanor convictions from his teenage years for malicious destruction of property and involvement in receiving and concealing stolen goods are grounds for deportation.
ICE wanted Niec kept in jail until at least Feb. 22, when a Children’s Protective Services hearing is scheduled in Wayne County, where the mother of his daughter lives.
In court Wednesday, ICE attorney Gretchen Weiss told the judge that Niec’s record, which includes drunken driving offenses in 2003 and 2008 and accusations of domestic violence and child abuse, indicates he is a threat to the community. She said citations for speeding and driving without proof of insurance show a lack of respect for the law.
Weiss went on to argue that the fact that a jury found Niec not guilty of domestic violence against the mother of his child after only 15 minutes of deliberation is proof that he used his status as a doctor to get out of trouble.
“He played the doctor card,” Weiss told the judge.
Weiss also said Niec has untreated alcoholism.
But Judge Jebson noted Niec’s most recent drunken driving accusation was nearly 10 years ago and said that eased his concern.
Jebson also pointed out that an accusation Niec bit his daughter in July 2017 was vetted by the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office, which found there was not enough evidence to charge him.
The doctor’s wife, Rachelle Burkart-Niec, testified Wednesday that when the child left her home last summer, she had no marks on her whatsoever.
“I know it’s not true because I was there,” Burkart-Niec testified.
The judge also noted CPS is not looking to take away Niec’s children and would, at most, seek counseling and reconciliation. He said that Niec is not considered a danger to his daughter.
Niec testified via video, weeping as he talked about how much he missed his children and the rest of his family. He blamed the mother of his daughter for reporting him to ICE and said she has been relentless in her attempts to ruin his life.
“It’s been a vicious struggle,” he said. “(The abuse allegation) isn’t true. I love (my daughter).”
He said he plans to return to his job at Bronson Methodist Hospital as soon as possible and the hospital says it wants him back.
“It’s been really hard,” Niec-Villaire said of her brother’s incarceration. “(Niec’s wife) Rachelle and I have had to step in his shoes and recollect all these things that happened that maybe I was there for, that maybe she was there for, so it’s like defending someone in multiple courts when he’s not able to defend himself, it’s been wearing. But we did the best we could and I’m so grateful for the results. Now Lukasz will be able to join us in that fight against these allegations that he keeps being attacked with.”
Still, she said she “won’t make any presumptions” about whether her brother would be allowed to stay in the country.
“I would’ve never thought that we would’ve been in this situation,” she said. “Lukasz, as you heard today, he doesn’t have an accent, he doesn’t speak Polish. But the fact that I’m at an immigration court right now is shocking. So I won’t feel better until it’s all over.”
–24 Hour News 8’s Barton Deiters contributed to this report.