A well-known Augsburg University professor is set to meet with immigration officials Friday with the possibility he may be deported, touching off a fierce debate over immigration authorities and their increasing role under the administration of President Donald Trump.
Dr. Mzenga Wanyama, a Kenyan native who teaches English and African history at the university, has overstayed his visa after 26 years in the United States despite never missing a scheduled check-in with immigration agents. Over that time he’s amassed a number of friends and supporters, many of whom are planning a rally in front of the St. Paul Immigrations and Customs enforcement office tomorrow to protest his removal.
“He is a warm-hearted, kind, caring man,” said Sarah Combellick-Bidney, a political science professor at Augsburg and friend of Dr. Wanyama. “He’s an expert in his field and he’s someone we look to to speak on various issues.”
Augsburg, for its part, has always been vocal as an institution about accepting students and staff from different backgrounds and immigration statuses, and put out a statement Thursday in support of Wanyama.
“Dr. Wanyama is a role model for the professionalaspirations and accomplishments of future leaders in our city and country,” the statement reads. “We strongly stand behind him and believe he should be able to stay in the United States.”
He first came to the country in 1992 seeking political asylum, working to complete a doctorate from the University of Minnesota before teaching stints in St. Cloud and Augsburg. His wife and children later joined him in Minnesota.
Among others, State Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, the country’s first Somali-American legislator, plans to be on hand Friday for the rally to speak out for immigrant rights after this week’s news and a similar situation several months ago involving 92 Somali men who were detained and reportedly subjected to abuse at the hands of ICE agents.
“People are clearly being targeted,” she said. “[Dr. Wanyama] is being targeted because of where he comes from, because possibly his skin color and the presumption that someone like him might not fit into our society.”