An Augsburg University professor who was told in April he had 90 days to show a path to legal status or leave the country has had his deadline extended to early September.
This is not the first extension Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has granted Mzenga Wanyama, who has received support from the community and some of Minnesota’s elected officials. However, his attorney said the tone of the Wednesday morning meeting with ICE seemed resolute.
“They’ve said basically the only thing that’s going to prevent him from having to leave on [Sept. 9] is if he obtains a stay from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA),” said his attorney, Rachel Petersen.
In late June, Wanyama’s attorneys filed a motion to reopen his removal proceedings with the BIA. But proceedings before the Washington, D.C., appeals board have no set timeline and there’s no guarantee, Petersen said.
Despite that uncertainty, she said Wanyama didn’t seem fazed by Wednesday’s decision.
“Obviously, he feels like his life has been disrupted and he does want to have a little more clarity about the situation,” she said. “But he’s a patient guy and he carried himself with a lot of grace.”
Wanyama, who is Kenyan, came to the United States in 1992 on an exchange visa to study at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and later received a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He has taught at Augsburg for more than a decade.
After an earlier bid for asylum failed, ICE had allowed Wanyama and his wife, Mary, a nurse, to stay as long as they appear for regular check-ins.
But under the Trump administration, immigration authorities have acted more aggressively on final orders of removal and Wanyama was told earlier this year to make plans to leave.
In April, ICE gave him 90 days, or until July 4, to figure out a path to legal status or face deportation to Kenya. Wanyama fears returning there because he has expressed critical views of its government. ICE extended his deadline to Aug. 3 after his attorneys filed his motion before the BIA.
He has also received assistance with different federal agencies from U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office.
“I will continue to work closely with Dr. Wanyama to find a way to keep him and his family in the U.S. — the place they have called home for more than two decades,” said Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Petersen said she doesn’t know if ICE will grant another extension or detain Wanyama.
“Under this administration, the enforcement priorities are basically everything,” Petersen said. “And so I feel like there’s probably going to be more and more cases like this.”