A doctor living in Kalamazoo, Michigan, was arrested and jailed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Saturday. The Polish doctor, Lukasz R. Niec, has lived in the U.S. for 40 years, and his family now fears that that he will be deported back to Poland following the arrest.
“In 1979, my parents were both doctors — [they] left Poland and took two suitcases and two small children ... and they came here for a better life for their kids,” explained Niec’s sister, Iwona Niec-Villaire, in an interview on Saturday. Although Niec has been in the U.S. for decades and does not speak Polish, he may be forced to return to the country that his family immigrated from 38 years ago.
Although ICE has not released a statement about the case, Niec’s sister believes the arrest was related to two misdemeanor convictions on her brother’s record, one that dates back to when he was in high school, and the other reportedly a property damage charge from the early 1990s. Court records indicate that in 2008, Niec pleaded guilty to a DWI, but the case was dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Since Donald Trump entered the White House, ICE has been cracking down on immigration. The agency recently raided 7-Eleven stores across the country, resulting in 21 arrests. On Wednesday, a Detroit father of two was deported back to Mexico, despite having lived in the U.S. for 30 years. He had no criminal record.
The current government shutdown has been driven by the immigration debate. Democrats and a handful of Republicans have been working to strike a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era policy that allowed immigrants brought to the United States as children to stay in the country without being deported. Trump ended DACA last year and said it was up to Congress to find a solution. No solution was achieved, which is in large part what led to the shutdown.
But DACA recipients are not the only immigrants under threat since Trump took office: ICE has started cracking down on these communities as a whole, and as of last November, nearly 40 percent more illegal immigrants had been arrested by the agency compared with 2016.
The recent case of a Detroit father who was deported after living in the U.S. for 30 years circulated quickly on social media. Some felt that the decision to send Jorge Garcia back to Mexico, despite the fact that he had no criminal record, was insensitive and callous. Bill Kristol, the editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication, tweeted, "Surely this should not be happening," at the time that the story broke. Garcia was too old to qualify for DACA, and under the Obama administration, he had been granted multiple stays of removal.
The Washington Post reported that Garcia's wife, Cindy, will attend Trump's State of the Union address on January 30. “I hope that when they see me they can connect and feel what we’re dealing with,” she told the Post, “that they have some type of compassion, if not for me than for the children who were separated from their dad.”
Thus far, reactions to Lukasz Niec's case have been similar to those given in response to Jorge Garcia's. ProPublica senior editor Charles Ornstein tweeted "feeling safer?", casting doubt on the assumption that Trump's crackdown on immigration would make Americans feel more secure.
Lawyer Michelle Kuo called ICE "an instrument of evil."
As demonstrated by the statement that ICE put out back in November, though, the agency is standing behind the Trump administration's instruction to be tougher on illegal immigrants: "ICE continues to execute our mission professionally and in accordance with the law, and our communities will be much safer for it."