November 1st, 2008
12:43 PM ET
5 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. Tracey

    And he will still get my vote! Say whatever you want about him, his family, etc. He will still get my vote!

    November 1, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  2. SP

    Isn't CNN worried that by posting a story that may be read as negative that they will be isolated from the Obama campaign? The Obama campaign has kicked 3 more conservative newspapers off their plane for endorsing McCain, and recinded access to an Orlando TV station because they asked tough questions. Wonder if this story will get CNN's access recinded as well? Glad to see that CNN is still willing to print the news despite the risks it runs of getting shut out.

    November 1, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  3. Raffaello from CT

    Is it time to discuss family members of the candidates now?
    OK, what about Cindy McCain? She was a drug addict and a thief, and should have been prosecuted for stealing from her private foundation to support her drug habit.

    McCain supporters, if you think this is irrelevant, that's fine. Then so is this latest bit of "news" about Obama's aunt. You can't have it both ways. After Tuesday, you won't be able to have it any way at all!

    November 1, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  4. JO

    Maybe McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger can give her some pointers.

    November 1, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  5. Kim

    Republicans: READ THE ARTICLE..."CNN can't verify her immigration status at this time.." You don't know all the facts, so SHUT UP! I cannot believe how ignorant you McCain supporters are.

    November 1, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  6. Mitch

    Well, now that Obama has responded, it's a non issue. He said that all laws be followed and he didn't know she was in the US illegally. That's the end of that.

    November 1, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  7. Diana

    News flash...you don't control your family members, the constitution does not have a religion requirement to be president, when you're mother is white you are not 100% black, and a government protecting its people is not socialism...That concludes this broadcast...

    November 1, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  8. John

    Actually, this is relevant to the election because it shows that Obama is a hypocrite. He talks about redistributing your weath, but he lets his own aunt live in poverty.

    November 1, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  9. JIMMY

    OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!

    ECONOMIC CRISIS, TWO WARS, JOBLESS RATES INCREASE, A COUNTRY ADDICTED TO OIL, FOOD BANKS DRYING UP...

    AND THE AP REPORTS ON OBAMAS AUNT?

    November 1, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  10. ASFolker

    CNN Online Editor.....
    People are tired of this kind of reporting. Barack Obama is not responsible for the actions of family members and I consider it an invasion of privacy to print how much his Aunt gave to his campaign, regardless of your rights to this information under the freedom of information act. Why wouldn't she give her nephew, what she could afford, regardless of her legal status? This is wag the dog for the severe right extremists in this country and CNN owes a moral duty not to participate in "yellow journalism" or the intent to "paint" someone as somehow nepharious based upon things,(his Aunt's actions) that are out of his control

    November 1, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  11. April

    I don't see this article as newsworthy. Obama is not responsible for the actions or status of his aunt. That is between her and the INS. However, at this point maybe she should have an anchor baby, then everyone will be okay with her staying here, right..

    I think CNN is trying to help McCain, otherwise they would be researching whether or not McCain actually killed someone in a traffic accident and the military covered it up.

    That is newsworthy and something that McCain actually should be responsible for.

    VOTE OBAMA/BIDEN 08

    November 1, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  12. Maggie from Virginia

    A lot of immigrants can relate to this. Guess what? There's millions of immigrants that are now US Citizens. Thanks CNN!

    November 1, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  13. Disgruntled voter

    It's a sad state of affairs when the Democrats push this off as being "irrelevent" or not important, when in fact they would make it a key issue had it been McCain's aunt.

    I'm a Republican and also think that his aunt's status is not EXTREMELY important but it is important. It is important because it unveils the real reason why Obama has completely ignored any discussion on immigration reform.
    McCain has championed REAL and REALISTIC immigration reform whereas Obama has been his usual "present" self. Just like his multitude of votes in the Senate.

    You want change people then vote for the only man who will bring it and not just talk about it. Obama will prove to be nothing more than long winded on speeches, litte on detail, unproven in politics, and uneducated about real world solutions to real world problems.

    November 1, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  14. pam Eugene OR

    CNN
    You really had to stretch to reach a story on this one. Try something relevant please.

    November 1, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  15. Nastex Ilmi

    McCain military record
    Temper, Medication, or What> this Man, is like a sunset, he could end up next 2 two year in homenerse, or hospitality, can we Trust Palin?

    Noooooooooo absulatly unqualifies:

    MN
    immigration Ganeration for better America voter;

    November 1, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. Brad

    I know a lot of you Barack supporters think this is not important and has nothing to do with the election.

    BUT...

    We have rules and guidelines when running for President. Taking in illegal contributions is one of them. And Barack has been under heavy scrutiny for taking illegal contributions from various groups. There have also been investigations into voting fraud. Step out of your bubble and do some research.

    So, before all of you ignorant cheerleaders start to dismiss this, step back and take a look at things aside from your decision. If you are so stiff that you aren't willing to criticaly look at your decisions, or who you support, then you are liken to sheep.

    Barack Obama is a commercial product. You all are buying it. Suckers.

    November 1, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  17. Phil the Engineer (a new demographic)

    I guess I won't be voting for his aunt.

    November 1, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  18. Charles from Atlanta

    It is big deal for Republican. In Republican's mind, you should not have Chinese friends from Maindland China that make you pro-communist. You should not have Jewish friends that people may say you are not recognizing Christ. You should not have muslim friends because someone may say you are potentially close to some terroist's friends. You should not have Mexican friends because they may be illegal and make you pro illegal immigrant... this list can go on and on... nothing is worthy but just want to mislead you that someone may be doing something illegal..

    November 1, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  19. Navy Vet

    This is family. Family is off limits. Obama stated that when people started getting down on Palin's daughter concerning her pregnancy. Since then, the Democrats have steered clear of attacking the opponent's family about any issues. The story about Cindy McCain's drug abuse was dropped by another source not connected to the Obama campaign. However, here we see the Republican affiliated sources taking the low road and trying to drop surprises before November 4. Well guess what? Its not a surprise to shock or change the outlook of the election and it will not change peoples' minds about who they will vote for especially if they are swinging towards Obama.
    Just hang in there everybody. Tuesday, November 4, 2008, is just around the corner and pretty soon it will be over.

    November 1, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  20. Al Ferg

    So? Deport her! And while you are at it, deport all the illegal English and Irish you can find. Oh, and don't forget the Russians, West Indians, Philipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Cambodians, Hondurans, Mexicans, Columbians, Georgians, Germans, Poles and whatever other nationalities you can find. In fact, let's clear the field so we can wash our own clothes, cut our own lawns, mind our own babies, roof our own houses and pick our own fruit.

    If they cannot document their ancestry back to someone on the Mayflower, I say, deport them. Let's get this country back on track.

    November 1, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. USMC

    I Love the comments. Are most from ACRON HE! HE! Watch out for your airplane seats. But don't worry Wolf you still ask the hard question of B. H. Obama and he will give you apeech of his views and not answer the question and you in form will thank him.....

    November 1, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. Kenziesmom

    And John McCain is a U.S. Citizen how? To all of you Obama haters this is all I have to say to you: John McCain was born in the Panama Canal, not the U.S The constitution says natural born citizen, so sorry to burst your bubble, but being born on a military base in the panama canal is not a natural born citizen. Obama could have easily fought that, but he is an honorable man and would never challenge that. Now I know that its a hard pill for you to swallow so I suggest some OJ so you cant taste the bitter taste of defeat!

    November 1, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  23. AR Graham

    Keep checking...it's a fact she's here illegally...has been for over four years...How did she get public housing? Quit kissing Obama's butt and report all the facts...

    November 1, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  24. AlPal The Truth Teller

    Talking Points Memo points out that the Bush administration may have engaged in a criminal act by releasing this information. It's dirty tricks all over again, yet another distraction attempted by a the Bush/McCain Axis. The more desperate they get, the more they break the law. They know there's only one way now for McCain to be President: Election Fraud.

    As a result, they're doing everything they can to

    a) smear Obama,

    b) disenfranchise voters

    c) weaken regulations before a new administration takes power.

    It's time for them to go.

    November 1, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  25. A moderate independent in Illinois

    This was obviously leaked by somebody in the Bush administration. Call it their attempt at a "November surprise." But it's pretty lame. Obama shouldn't have to account for every legal squabble and traffic ticket by family members and friends.
    The Obama campaign has to respond truthfully, of course. If Obama has somehow helped keep this secret, now THAT's a story... but otherwise it's a sideshow. It just goes to show that immigration is another tough issue for this country.
    I don't really need to know more about Obama. I still want to learn a lot about McCain, because he thinks "relationships" are so important. Does he repudiate his scary links to convicted Watergate criminal G. Gordon Liddy, a man who believes it's OK to foment violence against Americans? If you want to learn more, read about his horrific commentary after the Waco raid in Texas.
    Now THAT's a RADICAL. And he's John McCain's good friend. I don't care so much about Obama's Auntie... McCain and Liddy are the scary folks. And let's not forget "abuse of power" Palin!!

    November 1, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
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