Obama’s aunt is an illegal alien

Barack Obama’s aunt, a Kenyan woman who has been quietly living in public housing in Boston, is in the United States illegally after an immigration judge rejected her request for asylum four years ago, The Associated Press has learned.

Zeituni Onyango, 56, referred to as "Aunti Zeituni" in Obama’s memoir, was instructed to leave the United States by a U.S. immigration judge who denied her asylum request, a person familiar with the matter told the AP late Friday. This person spoke on condition of anonymity because no one was authorized to discuss Onyango’s case.

Information about the deportation case was disclosed and confirmed by two separate sources, one of them a federal law enforcment official. The information they made available is known to officials in the federal government, but the AP could not establish whether anyone at a political level in the Bush administration or in the McCain campaign had been involved in its release.

Onyango’s refusal to leave the country would represent an administrative, non-criminal violation of U.S. immigration law, meaning such cases are handled outside the criminal court system. Estimates vary, but many experts believe there are more than 10 million such immigrants in the United States.

The AP could not reach Onyango immediately for comment. No one answered the telephone number listed in her name late Friday. It was unclear why her request for asylum was rejected in 2004.

Onyango is not a relative whom Obama has discussed in campaign appearances and, unlike Obama’s father and grandmother, is not someone who has been part of the public discussion about his personal life.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Kelly Nantel, said the government does not comment on an individual’s citizenship status or immigration case.

Onyango’s case — coming to light just days before the presidential election — led to an unusual nationwide directive within Immigrations and Customs Enforcement requiring any deportations prior to Tuesday’s election to be approved at least at the level of ICE regional directors, the U.S. law enforcement official told the AP.

The unusual directive suggests that the Bush administration is sensitive to the political implications of Onyango’s case coming to light so close to the election.

One of the sources acknowledged he was not a supporter of Obama or John McCain and said he has no plans to vote on Tuesday. He said that was not a motive for releasing the information.

Kenya is in eastern Africa between Somalia and Tanzania. The country has been fractured in violence in recent years, including a period of two months of bloodshed after December 2007 that killed 1,500 people.

The disclosure about Onyango came just one day after Obama’s presidential campaign confirmed to the Times of London that Onyango, who has lived quietly in public housing in South Boston for five years, was Obama’s half aunt on his father’s side.

It was not immediately clear how Onyango might have qualified for public housing with a standing deportation order.


AP writer Elliott Spagat reported from New York.


  1. gazelle1929

    It is not stupid. It’s criminal. This came from Bush country, you can bet money on it. Just another one of the last-minute things the Republicans are doing to try to pull a miracle out of the train wreck their campaign is.

  2. CheckerboardStrangler

    Regardless of my uneasy confidence in Mr. Obama, I expect all people from foreign countries to come here through the front door, sign the guestbook, learn English, respect the country and obey the laws.

    I expect the same from Obama’s aunt just like this country expected it from my parents and there is nothing wrong with that, in my humble opinion.

    Now that Mr. Obama is expected to take the White House, I am sure that there will most likely be some help for the aunt.

    Doesn’t make a lick of difference to me.
    It might make a difference to all the other foreigners who have been lined up and patiently waiting their turn, however.

    But I will let President Obama explain it to them with his soon to be trademarked, “Look, here’s what’s gonna happen…”

    Last but not least, considering that he did not always have close ties with everyone in the family, it might be true that he was not aware of the fact his aunt was a border jumper.
    Someone on the campaign staff should have caught this a lot earlier and taken care of it, either with a nice plane ticket and an invitation to take her place in line or with a nice visit to an immigration attorney.

    It’s really stupid for this to pop up in the last days.

    Jeff H in Occupied TX

  3. erika morgan

    A half sister to a father with whom Obama spent a month with when he was 10 in Kenya, who has been visiting the US on her own since 1975 is now the Obama’s financial responsibility? Please give me a break, there are always folks coming out of the woodwork when someone gains prominence, seeking special favors. Responsible handling of these requests that are a form of blackmail is to ignore them.

  4. gazelle1929

    So just how stupid do you think Obama is?

    She’ll be here today gone to Maui.

    My guess is they’ve already got her a plane ticket to Nairobi. That’s certainly what I would do.

  5. acf

    So vote for your friend John McCain. BTW, your choice of the conservative slur for Barack ‘Barry’ devalued anything you had to say.