No special treatment for uncle, Obama says

By Maria Sacchetti
Globe Staff / September 2, 2011

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President Obama expects his uncle’s deportation case to be treated like any other immigration matter, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday.

Carney said the president was unaware of his uncle Onyango Obama’s arrest last week in Framingham until his press secretary told him about it this week. When he was arrested, Framingham police said Obama told them he would like to call the White House to arrange bail.

Obama “became aware of this story when I walked into his office and among other subjects mentioned it to him, and it was new to him on Monday,’’ Carney said at a press briefing.

He added that the president expected all laws to be enforced in the case. “We expect it to be treated . . . like any other immigration case.’’

Onyango Obama, 67, who is originally from Kenya, is the half-brother of the president’s late father, who was rarely in the president’s life.

Police arrested him last week on charges of drunken driving, failing to yield, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. After the arrest, federal immigration authorities discovered that Obama had been living and working in Massachusetts in violation of a 1992 deportation order, two federal law enforcement sources told the Boston Globe on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the case.

Obama has pleaded not guilty in Framingham District Court and is being held in the Plymouth County House of Correction on an immigration detainer.

One of his lawyers, Scott Bratton in Cleveland, said this week that Obama would fight the deportation since he has lived in the United States for nearly 50 years.

Bratton did not respond to requests for comment about the White House press secretary’s remarks yesterday.

Onyango Obama came to the United States as a young man to attend school, but later dropped out. He worked for the past five years in a liquor store in Framingham, where he also lived in a modest house.

He is the second relative from the president’s distant Kenyan family to face deportation in recent years.

Days before the president’s election in 2008, it came to light that the president’s aunt - his uncle’s younger sister, Zeituni Onyango - was living in public housing in South Boston, also in violation of a deportation order. She fought to reopen her case, and a US immigration judge in Boston gave her asylum last year, clearing the way for her to someday apply for US citizenship.

At the time, Barack Obama made similar remarks about his aunt’s case, saying that he had no involvement in it.

Maria Sacchetti can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @mariasacchetti.