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Support for Associate Professor Mzenga Wanyama

(Updated 9/5/2018)

Augsburg University is sharing this background about the immigration case involving Associate Professor Mzenga Wanyama to keep our campus and the public informed.

Status with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
The Board of Immigration Appeals has granted a stay of removal. As a result, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can’t deport Mzenga Wanyama and Mary Mzenga until the Board issues a decision on the merits of the motion to reopen his asylum case.

ICE had previously informed Dr. Wanyama and his wife Mary Mzenga that they were required to depart the United States on September 9. That had been extended another 30 days, before the stay of removal was granted late August 31.

“We are saddened that Dr. Wanyama continues to face this difficult situation,” said Paul Pribbenow, president of Augsburg University. “We value his scholarship and skill set and are exploring options for him to continue working in Augsburg’s global operations if he can’t stay in the U.S.”

Background
On April 5, Dr. Wanyama and his wife were informed in a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement that ICE would allow them 90 days to depart the United States. During a June 29 meeting ICE confirmed that it had extended their departure date from July 4 to August 3. The ICE office had asked them to return to the office on July 25 for a check-in.

On July 25, ICE then informed Dr. Wanyama and his wife Mary Mzenga that they would have to depart the United States on September 9. He was required to bring his plane tickets with a September 9 departure data to a check-in appointment with ICE on September 4. His September 9 departure was later extended 30 days.

Meanwhile, a motion to reopen Dr. Wanyama’s asylum application based on changed country conditions and a stay of removal was filed earlier this summer with the Board of Immigration Appeals. Once ICE was unwilling to use its discretionary authority any longer, his attorney requested the emergency review of the stay of removal that was granted August 31. If the stay had not granted, he and his wife would most likely have had to leave the U.S. in October.

Dr. Wanyama is teaching fall semester 2018 classes in the English department.

Augsburg University statements
Augsburg issued a statement from Augsburg President Paul C. Pribbenow following the Wanaymas’ April 5 ICE meeting, as well as statements before and following the previous ICE meeting, on March 9. These statements are posted below:

Augsburg University Faculty Senate statement
The Faculty Senate of Augsburg University wishes to express our unanimous and unconditional support for our friend and colleague, Professor Mzenga Wanyama. We urge all those who care about Professor Wanyama to consider signing the petition on his behalf at https://www.change.org/p/augsburg-university-support-augsburg-professor-mzenga-wanyama.

Augsburg University faculty statement
The Augsburg University faculty calls on the U.S. government to halt plans for the unjust deportation of our colleague Professor Mzenga Wanyama and his spouse and Augsburg nursing student Mary Mzenga and to permit their continued work and residence in the US. We stand against the anti-immigrant sentiment that is prompting the current wave of deportations and proudly affirm our status as an institution that supports the many immigrant and refugee members of our academic community.

Website
A website, www.mzenga.com, has been created by friends and supporters of Mzenga and Mary Wanyama. The site includes a statement from the Wanyamas, information about the next Immigration and Customs Enforcement meeting, and information about getting involved and providing support.

Work authorization and sponsorship
Augsburg University complies with federal law that requires employers to verify that employees are eligible to work in the United States. Dr. Wanyama has authorization to work in the United States, issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Sponsorship for permanent resident status is not an option at this time due to a restriction related to a J-1 two-year home residency requirement. The two-year home residency requirement means that those who come to the U.S. in J-1 status cannot become permanent residents in the U.S., change status, or get work or family-based visa status until they return to their country of last permanent residence for at least two years cumulatively. A request to waive the two-year home residency requirement was filed several years ago, but the waiver was denied. Augsburg is working with legal counsel to pursue all options available to us under the current scenario.

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