Doctor who came to US as child jailed by immigration agents

Lukasz Niec. (Courtesy photo)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Doctor who came to US as child jailed by immigration agents

KALAMAZOO, Michigan: A Michigan doctor who came to the US from Poland as a young child was in jail Monday, nearly a week after immigration agents arrested him at his home.
It’s not clear why Lukasz Niec, 43, was taken into custody last Tuesday. Niec is a legal US resident who works at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo. He has two misdemeanor convictions from high school and an impaired driving conviction from 2008 that was later dismissed.
The Associated Press sent an email Monday seeking comment from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. An automatic response said the agency’s public affairs employees aren’t working because of the government shutdown.
His wife, Rachelle Burkart-Niec, said he pleaded guilty in high school to malicious destruction of property and receiving stolen goods and was told the convictions wouldn’t be used in a deportation. Kalamazoo County court records show he pleaded guilty to an impaired driving offense in 2008. After completing probation, the conviction was set aside and case was dismissed as part of a plea agreement. A jury also acquitted him of a 2013 domestic violence charge, MLive reported.
“He’s taken care of the people of the US as a physician, he’s taken care of the people of this community,” she told MLive. “After all this time, when is somebody finally free?“
Niec came from Poland to the Detroit area when he was about 5 with his parents and sister. He has one daughter and his wife another from previous relationships, and they married in July 2016.
“He cannot go back to Poland, a country he doesn’t know, (where) he has no family,” his sister, Iwona Niec-Villaire, told WOOD-TV. “Both our parents passed away in the United States. He doesn’t know anyone; he wouldn’t know where to go.”
Bronson Healthcare, which owns the hospital where Niec works, released a statement, saying it “simply does not make sense” to lock up a “skilled and caring physician.” Niec has been on the Bronson staff since 2007.


South Korea dismantles guard posts with dynamite, excavators

Updated 15 min 10 sec ago
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South Korea dismantles guard posts with dynamite, excavators

  • Last week the two Koreas finished withdrawing troops and firearms from some of the guard posts along their border before dismantling them
  • The Koreas each agreed to dismantle or disarm 11 of their guard posts by the end of this month

CHEORWON, South Korea: South Korea exploded a front-line guard post Thursday, sending plumes of thick, black smoke into the sky above the border with North Korea, in the most dramatic scene to date in the rivals’ efforts to reduce animosities that sparked last year’s fears of war.
Last week the two Koreas finished withdrawing troops and firearms from some of the guard posts along their border before dismantling them. The steps are part of agreements signed in September during a meeting between their leaders in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.
On Thursday, South Korea’s military invited a group of journalists to watch the destruction of a guard post with dynamite in the central border area of Cheorwon. The journalists were asked to stay hundreds of meters (yards) away as black smoke enveloped the hilly border area. They later watched soldiers and other workers bulldoze another guard post.
While most of the South Korean guard posts are being destroyed with construction equipment for environmental and safety reasons, dynamite was used for the first structure because of its location on a high hill where it was difficult employ excavators, the Defense Ministry said.
North Korea is demolishing its guard posts with explosives, according to South Korean media.
The guard posts are inside the 248-kilometer (155-mile)-long, 4-kilometer (2.5-mile)-wide border called the Demilitarized Zone. Unlike its name, it’s the world’s most heavily fortified border with an estimated 2 million land mines planted in and near the zone. The area has been the site of violence and bloodshed since the 1945 division of the Korean Peninsula, and civilians need special government approval to enter the zone.
The Koreas each agreed to dismantle or disarm 11 of their guard posts by the end of this month before jointly verifying the destruction next month. South Korea had about 60 posts inside the DMZ guarded by layers of barbed wire and manned by troops with machine guns. North Korea was estimated to have 160 such front-line posts.
Under the September agreements, the Koreas are also disarming the shared border village of Panmunjom and clearing mines from another DMZ area where they plan their first-ever joint searches for Korean War dead. They’ve also halted live-fire exercises along the border.
The deals are among a set of steps they have taken since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reached out to Seoul and Washington early this year with a vague commitment to nuclear disarmament. The fast-improving inter-Korean ties have raised worries among many in South Korea and the United States as global diplomacy on the North’s nuclear weapons program has produced little recent progress.