Obama aunt reportedly in US illegally
Asylum request rejected in 2004
WASHINGTON - Barack Obama's aunt, a Kenyan woman who has been quietly living in public housing in South 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 US immigration judge who denied her asylum request, a person familiar with the matter told the AP late last night. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no one was authorized to discuss Onyango's case.
Onyango's refusal to leave the country would represent an administrative, noncriminal violation of US immigration law, meaning such cases are handled outside the criminal court system. Estimates vary, but many specialists believe there are more than 10 million such immigrants in the United States.
Onyango has been living for five years in a first-floor apartment of the public housing complex in South Boston.
The AP could not reach Onyango for comment. 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 US 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 US law enforcement official told the AP.
Kenya is in eastern Africa between Somalia and Tanzania. The country has been fractured with 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 shortly after Obama's presidential campaign confirmed that Onyango was Obama's paternal 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.