(KMSP) - Immigration officials told a beloved Augsburg University professor that he and his wife must leave the United States in 90 days.
Dr. Mzenga Wanyama and his wife, Mary, received the news that they must leave the country in the next three months at a meeting with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thursday. If they do not leave the country during that time, they could be deported.
The Wanyamas have a final appeal on May 10.
"There are two stays of removal that need to be filed--one with ICE and one with the board of Immigration Appeals," said Katheryn Wasylik, the Wanyamas’ immigration attorney.
ICE could use their prosecutorial discretion and allow them to stay, but they will need to provide evidence as to why he can't return to Kenya.
The Wanyamas moved to the United States from Kenya in 1992, seeking political asylum. They’ve attempted to obtain permanent visas over the years.
“This has been home for many, many years and we have received a lot of love for our children and for us too,” Mary said.
Dr. Wanyama teaches English and African history at the university. One of his students, Gabe Benson, has been a driving force of organizing rallies and getting thousands of people from the community to sign petitions to help the Wanyamas stay in Minnesota.
“Augsburg, Minneapolis, as communities—we show up when we see that something wrong is happening,” said Benson.
Despite the handmade signs, thousands of signatures, support from Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and a letter written by Governor Mark Dayton to the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the couple faces deportation back to Kenya after overstaying a visa.
“So we’re not going to have too much time to celebrate, because we don’t have very much to celebrate, but I just want to convey this—that I’m still very hopeful,” Dr. Wanyama said.
Augsburg University President Paul Pribbenow is disappointed by the situation.
“This is not just about him—it’s about the many students on our campus who themselves feel threatened by these policies,” Pribbenow said.
The Wanyamas will need to present material evidence to support their fear of returning to Kenya in order for the Board of Immigration Appeals to re-open the case, Wasylik said.
“I’m still very hopeful and the only reason I’m hopeful is because you are all here,” Dr. Wanyama said after receiving the news Thursday.
The couple has never missed a supervised check-in with immigration agents and do not have criminal records. They have two sons who are DACA recipients. Their youngest child was born in Minnesota.