Immigration officials have ordered a tenured Augsburg University professor to show up for a meeting to review his case and discuss a "plan for removal" Friday, and colleagues and others who fear his deportation plan to rally around him.
Mzenga Wanyama is an associate professor who teaches English, literature and African American history. He moved to the United States from Kenya in 1992 on a student visa, received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and taught at St. Cloud University before Augsburg.
"I have a job here, I'm working, I'm almost due to retire," he said. "Being sent away to some country I have not been to in almost a quarter century doesn't make any sense. But the ball is in their court. They could insist that I leave."
An immigration judge denied Wanyama asylum after his visa expired. He appealed, but was denied again. Instead, he became part of a large group of asylum seekers nationwide who took a deal that required them to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement on a regular basis. Wanyama has been checking in with ICE since 2012.
Last month, Wanyama said ICE told him to come back in May, but then the professor suddenly received a letter asking him to show up March 9.
Wanyama, 60, is married with three children. Two are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. One is a U.S.-born citizen.
An online petition has garnered nearly 2,400 signatures supporting Wanyama's stay in the United States. A group is planning to show up outside the ICE office in St. Paul Friday.
Michael Lansing, an associate professor of history at Augsburg and a longtime colleague, said Wanyama has been an important part of the community.
"Our students really count on him and his classes," Lansing said. "He teaches classes in Postcolonial theory and in African American literature and that particular specialty is crucial for our students to understand the broader world."