Augsburg professor faces deportation: Mzenga Wanyama applied for asylum in 2005

ST. PAUL-An Augsburg University professor is meeting with immigration officials Friday, March 9, about his possible deportation.Kenya native Mzenga Wanyama, an associate professor of English, came to the United States in 1992 as a J-1 nonimmigran...

ST. PAUL-An Augsburg University professor is meeting with immigration officials Friday, March 9, about his possible deportation.

Kenya native Mzenga Wanyama, an associate professor of English, came to the United States in 1992 as a J-1 nonimmigrant exchange visitor, court records show. His wife and two children followed in 1995.

When his visa expired in 2005, Wanyama applied for asylum. He said he feared government persecution after writing three newspaper articles supporting the former Kenyan president's political opponent.

But an immigration judge ruled against Wanyama and his family in 2009 and the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the decision.

An 8th Circuit Court of Appeals panel in 2012 agreed that Wanyama's evidence, which included his brother's firing from a government job, was not persuasive.

For years, Wanyama has had regular check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But because he has no criminal record, the government was in no hurry to deport him.

That's changed under President Donald Trump, whose executive orders have expanded the criteria for whom ICE can remove from the country.

Wanyama said the Friday meeting with ICE is to "review the case and make plans for removal."

"I guess this was going to happen at some point, but I didn't see it coming," he said.

His wife is in the country illegally, too, but ICE has not yet asked to speak with her about removal.

Their two noncitizen children so far have been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. The couple also has a 19-year-old son who is a U.S. citizen.

An ICE spokesman had no information about the case to share publicly.

Supporters are planning to meet at noon Friday at the ICE office in St. Paul. More than 1,600 people have signed an online petition of support on Change.org that started Thursday.

Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow released a statement Thursday calling Wanyama a role model:

"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.

"We strongly stand behind him and believe he should be able to stay in the United States."