Sophie Keefe, News Editor
Professor Mzenga Wanyama emerged from the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building at Fort Snelling last Thursday with news that deeply saddened the crowd of almost 100 gathered in support. Despite backing from Augsburg University and Minnesota state officials, Professor Mzenga Wanyama has been ordered to leave the country within 90 days of his meeting with ICE officials on April 5.
Unless Wanyama’s asylum case is reopened, he will have to purchase a plane ticket and present ICE officials with plans to leave the country by May 10, and to have departed by July. Augsburg University is paying for Wanyama’s lawyer, who is hoping to reopen his asylum application from 2005 on account of changed conditions in Wanyama’s native country, Kenya. The case was affirmed rejected in 2012.
The reason he remained in the United States after his student visa expired in 2005 was that he believed he and his family would be unsafe if they moved back to Kenya. Wanyama had written newspaper articles that were critical towards the leader at the time. According to the “Pioneer Press,” Wanyama said in a message to his supporters that his mother had been murdered this past year in his hometown. Although Kenya has taken on new leadership, President Paul Pribbenow believes that returning would still be dangerous. However, he remains optimistic:
“As long as there’s a chance … we hope that will be enough [to postpone the English professor’s removal],” Pribbenow said for the “Pioneer Press.”
Augsburg and the surrounding community are fighting with full force to keep Wanyama from leaving. An online petition has gained over 16,000 signatures, and a fundraiser organized to help with legal fees had raised over $7,500 as of April 10. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was present at Fort Snelling to show his support and say a few words. Gov. Mark Dayton wrote a letter to ICE director Tom Homan imploring him to allow Wanyama to stay in the country. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, as well as Rep. Keith Ellison have also expressed their support.
“That’s encouraging,” said Wanyama for MPR. “There is that element and then there is the integrated legal stuff that you have to deal with. So we think that the support that we are getting is going to help us deal with an otherwise very difficult situation.”
Wanyama’s departure would be a shocking blow to the Augsburg community as well as to countless family members and friends. If you wish to sign the petition in support of our dear professor, visit https://www.change.org/p/support-augsburg-professor-mzenga-wanyama. If you wish to donate towards Wanyama’s legal representation, visit https://www.gofundme.com/help-augsburg-prof-mzenga-wanyama .
This article first appeared in the Friday, April 13, Edition of The Echo.