(Updated May 2019)
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 Mzenga Wanyama’s motion to reopen the asylum application for him and his wife, Mary Mzenga, for another hearing. Their case will now be transferred back to the local immigration court in the Twin Cities where they will be allowed to present new evidence in support of the asylum application and application for cancellation of removal. This decision allows them to remain in the U.S. while the immigration court reviews their case.
On August 31, 2018, the Board of Immigration Appeals granted a stay of removal. As a result, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement couldn’t deport them until the Board issued a decision on the merits of the motion to reopen the asylum case.
ICE had previously informed them that they were required to depart the United States in October 2018.
On April 5, 2018, 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, 2018 meeting ICE confirmed that it had extended their departure date from July 4, 2018 to August 3, 2018. The ICE office had asked them to return to the office on July 25, 2018 for a check-in.
On July 25, 2018, ICE then informed them that they would have to depart the United States on September 9, 2018. He was required to bring the plane tickets with a September 9 departure data to a check-in appointment with ICE on September 4, 2018. The September 9, 2018 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 that 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, 2018. If the stay had not granted, he and his wife would most likely have had to leave the U.S. in October 2018.
Augsburg University statements
Augsburg issued a statement from Augsburg President Paul C. Pribbenow following the Wanaymas’ April 5, 2018 ICE meeting, as well as statements before and following the previous ICE meeting, on March 9, 2018. 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.
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. Professor 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.