Augsburg University Tenured Professor Dr. Mzenga Wanyama received a letter from ICE demanding his presence this Friday, March 9th to review his case and discuss “plans for removal.” Wanyama is a University of Minnesota Ph.D. graduate and had previously taught at. St. Cloud University. He has resided in the Midwest for the last 26 years. Wanyama lives with his wife and has three sons in Minnesota. One of his sons is a US citizen.
ICE has required Wanyama, a native of Kenya, to comply with stringent guidelines including regular visits to the ICE headquarters in St. Paul every one to three months. Wanyama has not missed a single visit. But this most recent demand comes outside of that schedule and signals a shift in priority of his case, putting him at risk for detention and deportation. Wanyama’s case was previously deemed a low priority by ICE, in part because he is a full-time professor and has no criminal record.
Meg Novak, a Minnesota-based advocate for families of immigrants, responded to the meeting by saying, “It is an outrage for ICE to remove our community members from their homes, disrupt their lives and rip apart families.”
Wanyama’s students and colleagues know him as a beloved mentor and expert in writing, Postcolonial literature and theory, and African American literature. “Professor Mzenga Wanyama is an invaluable tenured member of the Augsburg University Community. Augsburg’s students need Professor Wanyama,” said Robert Cowgill, chair of the English Department at Augsburg University.
We previously reported that ICE has shifted its strategy to targeted disappearances of political opponents. However, Wanyama’s case stands out since he has no history of opposition to ICE policies. Augsburg University Political Science Professor Dr. Sarah Combellick-Bidney observes that “ICE is emboldened and they are going after specific types of people to create a climate of fear. They are beginning to go after people who are deeply rooted in the community, who are mentors and educators, people we rely on.”
Wanyama’s case suggests that the scope and reach of the deportation regime continues to widen.
Advocates for Wanyama are asking community members to meet at the St. Paul ICE headquarters located at 1 Federal Dr #1640, St Paul, MN 55111 at 12 PM this Friday, March 9th to show support.