As professor faces deportation, Augsburg University calls on ICE to let him stay

Mzenga Wanyama has been in the U.S. for 26 years.
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Mzenga Wanyama has been in the U.S. for 26 years.

What's happening?

A professor at Augsburg University in Minneapolis fears possible deportation after receiving a letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) demanding he be at a meeting on Friday to discuss "plans for removal."

Kenya native Mzenga Wanyama is an associate professor of English at the college and had been complying with strict ICE requirements to stay in the Midwest, where he's lived for 26 years according to this petition.

He's a graduate of University of Nairobi and the University of Minnesota, where he earned his PhD in English, and taught at St. Cloud State before Augsburg, where he's now a tenured member of staff. 

The Change petition has had 4,400 signatures so far from those calling on him to stay, while his employers at Augsburg call him a "role model for the professional aspirations and accomplishments of future leaders in our city and country."

What's his immigration status?

The Pioneer Press has more details on this, but long-story-short he came to the U.S. in 1992 on a J-1 nonimmigrant visa, with his wife and kids following three years later.

His visa expired in 2005 and he applied for asylum, saying he was a target in his native Kenya, but his applications were repeatedly rejected.

Since the final appeal was turned down in 2012, he's had to regularly check in with ICE, with the newspaper noting the government was in "no hurry" to deport him because he has no criminal record.

His wife is also undocumented, while two of his children are in the DACA (Dreamer) program.

In the past few years however, Politifact reports ICE has increased its deportations of people without criminal records, but who have committed a civil violation of immigration laws (ie. being an unauthorized immigrant).

Augsburg U calls on feds to drop his deportation

In a statement issued on Thursday, Augsburg University President Paul Pribbenow said: "We strongly stand behind him and believe he should be able to stay in the United States."

"Augsburg University believes deeply that our country is great because of our embrace of people from a diversity of life experiences" Pribbenow said. "This is in our mission, and you can see it in our students faculty, and staff."

"Dr. Mzenga Wanyama’s teaching and research in African-American literary history and in postcolonial theory and literatures play a critical role in our undergraduate curriculum.

"His work enriches the education that Augsburg provides, advancing students’ scholarship in writing and literature well beyond what this University would be able to provide without him."

His supporters plan to rally in front of the St. Paul on Friday outside ICE, which has not commented on the proceedings.

Wanyama, 60, told the Star Tribune: "I am hoping for the best, while preparing for the worst. Tomorrow [Friday] is a very important day. It could be nothing, or it might be something else."

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