Sister of Michigan doctor detained by ICE: "He doesn't even speak Polish"

Family and friends of a Michigan doctor who is facing possible deportation are fighting to keep him in the U.S. Lukasz Niec was arrested last week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The 43-year-old emigrated to the U.S. from Poland when he was five. His family believes his arrest is tied to misdemeanor charges from more than 25 years ago.

Although he's not an American citizen, Niec became a permanent U.S. resident with a green card shortly after he moved here with his family in 1979. He's now being held in a Michigan County jail. His family fears that even if he is allowed to stay in the U.S., the battle could take months.

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Rachelle Burkhart-Niec   CBS News

"Him being away this long really does, you know, take love to a whole new level," said Niec's wife, Rachelle Burkhart-Niec.

Burkhart-Niec says she thought it was a prank when her husband Lukasz called to say he had been detained by ICE. She says three ICE agents came to their Michigan home and put the father of two in handcuffs.

"We need him here. And we're lonely without him and he knows that," Burkhart-Niec said.

"He is fighting to be in his home which is the United States. He doesn't even speak Polish," said Niec's sister, Iwona Niec-Villaire.

She believes the detention stems in part from a 1992 misdemeanor arrest for property damage that Niec pleaded guilty to when he was 17. 

"We did go see him on Wednesday. He was shaking….Just kind of shell-shocked and what I said was you don't have anything to apologize. You did nothing wrong," Burkhart-Niec said.

According to court records obtained by the Michigan news website, MLive, Niec also pleaded guilty to a 2008 charge related to drunk driving. The plea was eventually withdrawn and the case dismissed after he completed probation. In 2013, a jury reportedly found him not guilty of a domestic violence charge.

Niec's colleagues and friends are now writing letters to an immigration judge in hopes it will rally support.

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Lukasz Niec's colleagues and friends.  CBS News

"He's exactly the kind of person that our immigration policy should be encouraging to prosper here," said Mike Raphelson, a colleague of Niec's.

Another colleague added: "He's been just completely the model physician that you want the physicians to be."

Kalamazoo's Bronson Methodist Hospital – where Niec has worked for more than a decade -- says he has contributed "exemplary patient care" and is requesting "he be allowed to return to work and his family as soon as possible."

"I just miss him and I want him home. He's the person I call whenever anything goes wrong or right, and now I can't do that and it's, it's just breaking me up," Niec's sister said.

A close friend says Niec has obtained two immigration attorneys and could be granted bond when he faces a judge next month.

CBS News reached out to the Department of Homeland Security and ICE. Their response was they could not respond to our questions while the government was shut down but said they would respond later on Tuesday.