Kenyans in America Diaspora have been left tongue-tied and in a state of bewilderment, with the news that the beloved Augsburg University professor Mzenga Aggrey Wanyama will be deported back to Kenya after 26 years in the United States.
After a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials at the Whipple Federal Building, Wanyama was informed that he and his wife Mary should prepare to return to their native Kenya. The couple, who have three adult children, were asked to surrender their passports and return to the ICE office in one month to finish departure plans.
“The situation is such that they cannot do anything about it–ICE can’t change my situation,” Wanyama told reporters. “All they can do is execute the court order that was given by the court. If I can get a different order, then they’ll go along with that.”
Wanyama, who teaches African literature history at Augsburg, migrated to the United States legally in 1992 as a graduate student at Howard University in Washington. He later moved to Minnesota and earned a doctorate at the University of Minnesota. He taught at St. Cloud State University before switching to Augsburg in 2006.
Wanyama’s Visa was extended several times, but eventually expired. In the meantime, he petitioned for political asylum, because some of his writings were critical of the ruling political group in that East African nation.
That request for asylum was denied, but he kept regular appointments with ICE through the years. At some point the US government decided it was time to remove Wanyama and his wife from the country.
His youngest son, a student at the University of Minnesota, is a US citizen because he was born in the United States. Wanyama’s two other adult children have enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
The status of immigrants in that system is in limbo, tied up in court after the Trump Administration reversed President Obama’s executive order that created DACA.
Wanyama said he knows he has an uphill battle on his hands, but his lawyers haven’t stopped working on his behalf.
“The only anxiety I had was whether I should actually let my friends know that I have this problem or not,” Wanyama explained.
“I’m happy to let my friends know where I am, what I’m going through. Because I know, once I do that, if absolution is possible at all, that’s the only way to get to it.”
Late Friday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey spoke out on behalf of the beloved literature professor.
“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,” Mayor Frey said, is a statement released to the media.
“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.”
Wanyama’s spirits were buoyed by the outpouring of support, both on social media and the crowd of supporters who gathered outside the federal building in anticipation of his meeting with ICE.
“I have a smile on my face. People expected me to be sad and everything, but I’m not, because of this amount of support,” he remarked.
But he made it clear he understands he’s fortunate in that regard, compared to many others who’ve set down roots in this nation and are now being expelled and separated from their families.
“I know that there are people who get involved in these situations who don’t get the kind of support that I have. Those are the people we should really be thinking about today.”