November 1st, 2008
12:43 PM ET
8 years ago

Obama's aunt may be illegal immigrant

Sen. Obama visited Kenya, his father's birthplace, in 2006. The Associated Press has reported that a paternal aunt of Obama's is living in the U.S. illegally.

Sen. Obama visited Kenya, his father's birthplace, in 2006. The Associated Press has reported that a paternal aunt of Obama's is living in the U.S. illegally.

(CNN) - A member of Barack Obama's Kenyan family living in the United States is facing a possible immigration issue: the Associated Press reports that an aunt he speaks about in his memoirs is living in the United States illegally.

The AP says she remain in government housing in Boston, even though an immigration judge denied her request for asylum four years ago.

Zeituni Onyango's refusal to leave the country would be an administrative violation, not a criminal matter.

CNN has not been able to independently verify her immigration status.

The Obama campaign has not yet responded to a CNN request for comment.

Obama called the woman "Aunt Zeituni" in his memoirs, where he described her as the first Kenyan relative he encountered on his visit to his father's home country.

Onyango has donated at least five times to Obama's campaign in July and September, listing her occupation as a "volunteer resident health advocate." Federal campaign finance records indicate several contributions in amounts of $5 and $25.

Updated 11:37 a.m.: Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, issued the following statement in response to the AP's reporting about Sen. Obama's aunt: "Senator Obama has no knowledge of her status but obviously believes that any and all appropriate laws be followed. "

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soundoff (1,442 Responses)
  1. Gail

    Deport her.

    November 1, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  2. Jason

    Yes, His poor aunt lives in the slums in Boston. It sounds like he is a real family man. I don't understand why he can redistribute his own wealth to provide for his aunt? He must be waiting for Oprah to jump in there to take care of her! Or maybe yet, take taxpayers money to provide for her. Come on.

    November 1, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  3. Tired of the Bias

    Can't you see? This is important because it will shape Obama's views of ILLEGAL immigration if it turns out to be true. If elected, I fear my tax dollars that I have worked so hard for and will now be taken away because I fall under Obama's definition of "rich" are going to be spent to support ILLEGAL immigrants.

    Not just that, I fought tooth and nail to make a good living and I am just flabbergasted that Obama thinks I need to redistribute MY wealth, mostly to folks that do not pay taxes to begin with. Makes me ponder again what the point of the American Dream really was–Live it, Dream it, and before long, it will be taxed away.

    November 1, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  4. OhioGirl82

    More notably - not a citizen and donating to his campaign - at least five times. This isn't about Aunti Zietuni - this is about the Newsweek article and the Washington Post article and all the other articles that point out 10s of millions of dollars coming from foreigners. The presidency of the U.S. is not to be bought by foreign interests!!!!!

    November 1, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  5. Kyle


    November 1, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  6. S. Smith

    ...and the reason we're hearing this three days before the election is? Frankly I'm completely ignoring all the trash mail and negative commercials on television until after the election. They don't sway me a bit.

    November 1, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  7. joe

    Keep the media following her all day Tues. We have a right to know if she tries to vote.

    November 1, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  8. Frank

    Is THAT supposed to be the October suprise? How PATHETIC! Leave this woman alone, she is not part of the game, she is no "Joe the Plumbler" who came foreward – giving false information about himself – and now trying to reap money from his 15 minutes of fame.

    November 1, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  9. CCC

    MAY BE?????? Talk about media bias. She IS in this country illeagally. How did she get public housing with a standing deportation? What does this say about Senator Obama, he wants taxpayers to spread our wealth around, yet does not want to do it himself. Other peoples money is what Barack wants to spread around. What does this say on his policy of immigration? Senator Barack Obama is bad for the United States of America.

    November 1, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  10. M. Bryan

    The winner should be the person who has the greater intelligence
    and who can better represent all the people of the United States at
    home and abroad not the person whose campaign has spread the
    most rumors and slung the most mud. The issues are the economy,
    the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Wall Street/ housing imbroglio, education and all that is the province of government, not idle or
    hateful gossip.

    November 1, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  11. Another grumpy old white woman for Obama

    This may be under appeal. Not that it makes any difference. Reps are desperate. I am sure that this would have been discovered and thrown with the rest of the "mud" from JM. Oh, wait, it isn't mud.
    It's Feces at this point.

    November 1, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  12. Pepou


    November 1, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  13. Scott L

    What do you mean "MAY BE" she IS here illegally!

    November 1, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  14. Lee from FL

    good try CNN.
    good try!
    let me guess,Obama is an illegal alien too?

    November 1, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  15. She's also violated US political contribtution's law

    It’s a great story, especially since she’s related to a presidential candidate with a high likelihood of winning.

    She’s a reported illegal alien, one who also happens to reside in government paid housing – for those who don’t get it, those of us who pay taxes pay for it. She’s already been denied the right to stay, so what’s next for her? Sorry, CNN is right, it’s news. Plus, let’s not forget that she’s also broken other U.S. laws through her political contributions…she’s a foreign national. And, the Obama camp has a legal obligation to deal with it. Have they?

    November 1, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  16. MJ in LV

    I honestly don't know if he has any complete knowledge about his aunt's status, but I know he does not have any control about what his aunt does. Give me a break.

    Oh, and last I checked, Hawaii is a US state, making him a natural citizen.

    I'm proud that I voted for him already. GOBAMA!

    November 1, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  17. CB

    Dear CNN,

    So what!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 1, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  18. Charlie Bradley

    Absolutely nothing to do with the Presidential election whatsoever. How about the fact that McCain, an actual person running for President, wsn't even born in the US? I don't care if it was during a family millitary mission or not, that should automatically and wholly disqualify him.

    November 1, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  19. republicans hate ameirca

    we are a nation if immigrants so what?

    November 1, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  20. van

    "MAY BE"... And G.W. Bush may have committed crimes against humanity. Cheney may have benefited his wealthy friends with juicy government contracts. They may still be prosecuted for it. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.! I am so proud of the people here. They can see that the news media want to make the election appear closer that it is to keep us guessing and watching their commercials.. We reject their manipulations.

    November 1, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  21. Sarah McMaster

    So what? If the media is looking to stir things up with some juicy bit about the candidates' families, how about explaining the circumstances of McCain's bigamy? How about exploring the stories about McCain beating his first wife? How about giving us the details about McCain calling his newer (and substantially younger) wife an unsavory term used to refer to a woman's vagina? Hey, come on – let's throw some more garbage onto the political fires!....

    Geez, can we finally get past all of this nonsense and return to a discussion of the important issues? Please? Before my 401K account dries up?......

    November 1, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  22. Donny

    Um, what does this have to do with Obama? My brother is a felon. That's not my fault, and it doesn't reflect on my character at all. Obama's long lost aunt, whom he's hard barely any contact with, is not Obama's responsibility.

    And please, Obama is going to win the presidency in 3 days...enough with the "he's not a US citizen" crap!

    What next......Obama's actually a woman? How about coming up with actual facts, as opposed to stupid ploys to swing voters?

    Obama is our next president. We let you have your way for 8 years with Bush, now it's our turn.

    November 1, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  23. pa

    As McCain says – we are all gods children.

    November 1, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  24. Rese

    You are going to tell me that (if she is his aunt that) that the US Immigration Service is so backlogged that they couldn't deport her 4yrs ago when they made that determination? WOW! I've heard of red tape but that seems a little excessive to me. What about the timing of this newsworthy release? Over the weekend when it will be hard to verify the information because government offices are closed. Ok, say she is his aunt and what should he have done if she didn't tell him the facts? Should he have used his "status" to ensure she stayed legally? Well, that wouldn't work because they still would have used it to their advantage. McCain can't beat him above board so he uses "by any means necessary" .. sounds like Bush .. i.e., the Iraq war. We'll be in 4 wars if McCain is elected. Ask yourself this. If McCain is so honorable and feels a duty to his country and the men in the armed forces, why then doesn't he acknowledge and vote to make sure the vets are taken care of? His glory days are over.

    November 1, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  25. drpratt

    Stephen from Kentucky: Your objection as to regards Obama's citizenship goes to show your little knowledge of elementary civics or lack thereof. Obama is a US citizen born in Hawaii. If you think you have hit such a landmine of news, why do you think that the McCain campaign which has spent Millions in an effort to dig up dirts on him has not stumbled on it. Besides, if you had a mere knowledge of rudimentary Civics, you would have known that anyone born of a US citizen parent(s) regardless of the geographical location of birth, is automatically a citizen. A good exam is John McCain who was born in Panama (outside the US). Yet he is a natural born citizen. Obama's mother is a white woman from the Midwest. If you doubt his paternal lineage, I bet you wont doubt his maternal. Since she is apparently white, or maybe she is an Indonesian or Kenyan white!

    November 1, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
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