Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is intervening in the immigration case of Dr Aggrey Mzenga Wanyama, a Kenyan professor at Augsburg who has been given 90 days by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to leave the United States.
Gov. Dayton on Wednesday sent a letter to acting Director of ICE, Thomas Homan asking him to allow Wanyama remain in the US. In this letter, Gov Dayton says that “Dr. Wanyama is a great asset to Minnesota. He has dedicated himself to teaching the young minds, who attend Augsburg University. His deportation would be a terrible loss to the hundreds of students he influences and also to his family and friends, who love him.“
Wanyama has lived in the United States for 25 years since arriving on a student visa in 1992. His wife and children followed him in 1995. He attained a PhD and later became professor of English at Augsburg University in Minnesota.
After his student visa expired in 2005, Wanyama applied for political asylum saying he feared persecution by the government after writing three newspaper articles supporting opposition leader Raila Odinga. An immigration judge ruled against Wanyama in 2009 saying there was no apparent threat on Wanyama’s life in Kenya. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the judge’s decision, and so did an 8th Circuit Court of Appeals panel in 2012.
Since under the Obama administration immigrants such as Dr Wanyama who had no criminal records were not a priority for deportation, Wanyama was allowed to remain in the country but was required to check-in on a regular basis with immigration officials. The Trump administration has however expanded the criteria for deportation to include just about anyone not in current legal status, and upon reporting for a regular check-in with immigration last week, Wanyama was informed he has until July 14th to leave the country unless he shows he has a path to regain legal status.
In addition to Governor Dayton, several other Minnesota politicians have publicly lobbied for Wanyama to be allowed to remain in the country. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has said that Wanyama “is not just a resident, and he is not just a community member, he is a member of our family and the City of Minneapolis. He not going anywhere”. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith as well as Congressman Keith Ellision have also taken up Wanyama’s cause.
An online petition started by Augsburg English undergraduate student Gabreil Benson in support of Dr. Wanyama has received close to 16,000 signatures, while a GodFundMe campaign to help with his legal costs has received $7,376 so far.
Wanyama is a relative of Kenya Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa.