MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A college community came together Friday to rally in support of a professor facing deportation.
Dr. Mzenga Wanyama has been in the United States for 26 years.
Following a court order, immigration officials have given the tenured Augsburg University English professor a month to make plans to leave.
Students and faculty stood in support of Wanyama outside the Immigration office in St. Paul.
“It does make a difference, and when we’ve seen that in cases where there’s a lot of attention, ICE acts differently,” said Professor Sarah Combellick-Biney.
Wanyama met with officials inside who told him to make plans to go back to his native Keyna.
“I’m very happy to see all the support,” Wanyama said. “It’s the only reason I felt good about coming today.”
The professor originally came to the United States on a visa. In 2010, a federal immigration judge told him to voluntarily depart the country. He appealed, and a judge then ordered his removal.
For eight years, he has checked in with ICE monthly and has been allowed to stay, until now.
“ICE can’t change my situation. All they can do is execute the order that was given by the court,” Wanyama said. “So if I can get the court to give a different order, then they’ll go along.”
His wife has also been ordered to leave. Two of his kids are “dreamers.” The third is a U.S. citizen.
“The separation of the family, that has been a threat on our heads for a long time,” Wanyama said.
He is hopeful the backing of so many will sway officials. Aaron Wells, one of Wanyama’s former students, felt so strongly that he jumped on a plane from Washington D.C. just to make his voice heard.
“I can’t think of anybody who’s contributed more to the community and been more invested in Minneapolis,” Wells said. “This would be terrible for our community, and our state and our country to lose somebody like this.”
Wanyama had to turn his passport in on Friday. He said his attorneys will fight this, and they are looking at all of their options.
One of Wanyama’s former students organized a petition on change.org to help out.
ICE Deputy Director Tom Homan released this statement on Wanyama’s situation:
You can’t want to be a part of this great nation and not respect its laws. So when you violate the laws of this country — and the taxpayers in this country spend billions of dollars a year on border security, immigration court, detention. And they go through a process. They get a decision from the immigration judge — most times will appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, then to a circuit court. When that due process is over, that final order from a federal judge needs to mean something or this whole system has no integrity.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey released this statement Friday:
Dr. Mzenga Aggrey Wanyama is a pillar in his community. For over two decades he’s helped shape future leaders in Minneapolis and beyond. Our city and our region are better for his work. No President, no federal agency will deport Dr. Wanyama without a fight from me, from our partners in the state and federal delegations, and from the thousands of people in Minneapolis who share our values.
Augsburg University President Paul C. Pribbenow, released the following statement Thursday night.
Augsburg University believes deeply that our country is great because of our embrace of people from a diversity of life experiences. 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. Dr. Wanyama is a role model for the professional aspirations and accomplishments of future leaders in our city and country. We strongly stand behind him and believe he should be able to stay in the United States.