President Obama’s Aunt to Remain In US Pending 2010 Hearing


BOSTON—Zeituni Onyango, the paternal aunt of President Barack Obama, will not appear before an immigration judge again until February of next year. In the meantime, she will be able to remain in the United States, a judge ruled recently.

Onyango, 56, has applied for asylum in the U.S. “due to violence in Kenya,” where she is from, stated her attorney, Margaret Wong. The exact grounds on which her asylum bid was founded have not been released.

In order to qualify for asylum, individuals must prove that they would be subject to persecution—based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social status—in their homeland.

Unrest and violence in Kenya has erupted periodically since the country gained independence from Britain in 1963, particularly between two tribes, the Luos and the Kikuyus. Onyango is a member of the Luo tribe. Last year, over 1,000 people where killed in an uprising following a Kenyan political dispute.

Onyango had first moved to the country in 2000, and applied for asylum in 2002, but was rejected. She was ordered to be deported in 2004, but did not leave the country.

Just days before the U.S. Presidential election in November, then-candidate Barack Obama’s aunt was revealed as an illegal alien. Obama has said that he was not aware of his aunt’s illegal status. In December of last year, a judge agreed to reopen the asylum case after suspending the order to deport Onyango.

The hearing scheduled for next February, known as an “individual hearing,” will give Onyango the opportunity to state her reasons for having sought asylum. In such cases, the Department of Homeland Security acts as prosecution, and the judge has the power to decide whether Onyango will be granted asylum or will be deported.

Onyango, who is the half-sister of Obama’s late father, wore a curly red wig to a hearing which took place earlier this week. She declined to comment as officers of the Federal Protective Service led her away from the U.S. Immigration Court in Boston.

Attorney Wong said that she is “working hard to keep matters in the court system and towards a favorable outcome for Ms. Onyango.”


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