Lukasz Niec was 5 years old when his parents brought him and his sister to the United States from Poland. With two suitcases in tow, his parents — both doctors — left behind a country on the verge of social turmoil. It was 1979, about two years before the country’s authoritarian communist government declared martial law.

Niec received a temporary green card and, in 1989, became a lawful permanent resident. He grew up in Michigan, went to medical school, became a doctor, and raised a daughter and stepdaughter.

Niec, now 43, never fathomed that his legal status in the United States would become an issue. With a renewed green card, and nearly 40 years in the country, his Polish nationality was an afterthought for Niec, his sister told The Washington Post. He doesn’t even speak Polish.

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