The Augsburg University professor who has been fighting deportation for months will get to stay — for now — and will begin teaching English literature courses this week.
Mzenga Wanyama received a stay of deportation on Friday from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), meaning his deportation order is temporarily paused until the board makes a decision on reopening his original immigration case, said his attorney, Rachel Petersen.
“It’s somewhat of an uphill battle. … We’re trying to stay positive,” Petersen said, later adding, “I think he’s feeling good about the stay.”
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, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had allowed Wanyama and his wife, Mary, a nurse, to stay as long as they make regular check-ins. But under the Trump administration, immigration authorities have acted more aggressively on final orders of removal, and Wanyama was told in April he had 90 days to show a path to legal status or leave the country.
Wanyama has said he fears returning there because he has criticized its government. His family has drawn high-profile support from elected officials, community members and students.
ICE extended his deadline to leave the United States at least twice. He was slated for deportation Sept. 9, but U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office asked for an extra 30 days so he could get a visa to Namibia. Wanyama had made a contingency plan to teach at an Augsburg satellite campus there.
“There’s no thought on going home [to Kenya],” Petersen said.
But then the BIA decision came and paused his deportation order.
If BIA decides to reopen Wanyama's case, he and his wife will have to reargue it before a local immigration judge, Petersen said. The timeline on that decision is unknown, Petersen said, but they have another check-in with ICE on Oct. 1.