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. "

Full story

soundoff (1,442 Responses)
  1. Steve

    Why don't you people at CNN, start doing some real reporting? This story is utter nonsense and in my opinion pathetic. I guess if someone is concerned about this elderly woman being in the country illegaly, it might be a good time to remind your readers that John McCain, and Ted Kennedy authored the recent illegal/amnesty bill, that was voted down.

    Just thought I'd remind everyone of that fact. Of course now McCain says he would veto many of the bills that he once voted for in the senate, (wink).

    November 1, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  2. I was a Republican....UNTIL LAST NIGHT....

    Yea..and..whut ?

    Tell me, how this story will effect me paying my mortage....
    or how this story is important enough to put gas in my buggie, or feed or clothe my children ???

    **NEWS FLASH**
    There are millions of illegals in the thats Obama's fault too egh ???

    Get a grip.....

    Lets chat about McCain leaving his first wife and Ross Perot had agreed to pay for her medical thats a story !

    NEXTTT !

    November 1, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  3. jenny


    November 1, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  4. Ruth

    Both of the McCains are adulters. Cindy was a drug addict. Got a charity closed down. Caused a Dr. to lose his license for life. Did you know that when Reagan left office he refused to shake hands or speak to McCain because of how he treated his first wife? The Obama's have done everything right. Got an education without help from their father's coat tail. Get what I mean? How can anybody in their right senses vote for McCain?

    November 1, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  5. laurie

    Any employer in the United States is required, by law, to have legal documentation that proves the employee is a U.S. citizen or a government issued VISA (green card) . So either this article is claiming that the local government in Boston has hired an illegal alien or the AP and/or Drudge did not vet the information prior to printing. I doubt the local government would be so foolish as to not document their workers.

    November 1, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  6. GA4Obama

    CNN why is this important? I could care less about Obama's aunt. Please report something news worthy and quit falling for the McCain/Bush last minute desperation attacks...It's not working I already voted.

    Obama/Biden 08'/12'!!!!!

    November 1, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  7. Lee

    In reading the comments , the "who cares" amaze me. You all need to wake up and really care. I'm afraid that this attitude is exactly what brought us to this point in time.

    November 1, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  8. Erik in Real PA

    Troopoergate? Keating 5? G. Gordon Liddy? Alaskan Independence Party? Questionable per diem? Cheating on handicapped wife with prescription drug abuser?b

    November 1, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  9. Gerda Edwards

    For all you Obalemmings asking what she has to do with him, that this isn't a story about Obama, etc.

    Why then do you rail on McCain about Bush, Cheney, etc.

    None of them are McCain. What a bunch of ignorant, mesmerized, hypocritical losers!!

    November 1, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  10. Ricardo

    hey Dave from Illinois, "cling to my guns and religion" thats exactly why I'm not voting for McCain / Palin – because McCain picked an extremist gun crazy religious nut – job as a running mate and he's one foot in the grave. We don't need guns and religion in this country – we need a few more sane people! Thinkers and problem solvers.

    November 1, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. Matt

    The reason this has some merit is when some nominees to appoint office were found to have illeagals working in their homes they were immediately disqualified. Now, a presidential cadidate has an illeagal family member living off federal housing its ok as long as I the $250 tax break I'm promised. Democrates love the liers and cheaters when they are on their side. How else would Clinton have been elected? He didn't inhale and didn't have sex with some other than Hilory? That's ok, he is a dumbocrate too.

    November 1, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  12. Andrew


    This was an -AP- Report, don't chew CNN up... I saw it on MSNBC hours before CNN posted it.

    The only thing CNN failed to mention is the fact it's his 'half-aunt' (his father's half-sister).

    On that note? Who cares? I think chip had it right.... on the fact McCain wasn't even -born- in the United States.. I mentioned that last night when I was debating my friend on this exact issue.

    Obama may have to give that 5 dollar and 25 dollar donation back, but it's not like it's going to derail him.

    The AP isn't normally some right-wing hatred based campaign derailing organization, I think they were just reporting news.

    PS: If she lives in public housing and she's not hiding... it's lack of 'clean-up' on the side of the united states, just another person who is flawing our immigration system. I think a good fair question to ask him would be 'would you kick your aunt out of the country?' - His answer of course should be yes... not because he's heartless, but because he's a lawyer.

    Like us all, Obama has a few nasty statistics attached to his name, he's truly an American, what more can we say past that?

    November 1, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  13. Brian

    This is more of an indictment of the U.S. immigration policy than any particular individual.

    The Bush administration and his republican congresses had a TON of opportunities to fix the system, but they shirked their responsibilities because immigration was too hot for them to handle.

    Let's get REAL CHANGE in the White House in 2008 and fix EVERYTHING that's disintegrating in America!!!

    Obama/Biden '08!!!

    November 1, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  14. Ryan

    Stephen in Willmore, Kentucky,
    Sorry that you missed the story and that you're apparently too inept to use Google, but this issue with Obama's birth and citizenship was already debunked back in the primaries.

    November 1, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  15. Joe

    Here are John McCain's obstacles.
    1. Obama record outlay of $700+ million vs. John McCain's public funding
    2. Obama is prettier than McCain
    3. The economy is not doing so well right now
    4. The current President has a bad reputation
    5. 80% of the media is trying to elect Obama through blatantly biased coverage
    6. Obama has promised that he'll tax higher earners and "spread the wealth" to lower earners, effectively trying to BUY their vote

    The fact that McCain is neck-and-neck with Obama and will overcome Obama this weekend is testament to McCain's better qualifications as President. If any of the above obstacles were removed, we would be looking at a landslide for McCain. We still may have one as people continue to discover who Obama really is.

    November 1, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  16. Anonymous

    Oh my god! Fast, stop the election and throw Obama to Guantanamo Bay! One of his few hundreds relatives may be one of many millions illegal immigrants, that can be no coincident! Mc Cain was right, he must be a Terrorist!

    November 1, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  17. Sally

    So he didn't know, and he made to attempt to locate her. And NONE of his family told him either. If this man cannot help his own relatives, how on earth can he be any use as President? His voice is amonotonous drone, his ideas stolen from others, and he has about as much charisma as a fly buzzing around the dinner table. I just wish we'd never seen or heard of him. Looking forward to Hillary in 2012.

    November 1, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  18. Nik K

    It might be a non-storie but Obama must have known and as a would be President how can you condone illigal behavior! She should now be detained and deported and he should answer to how long he has known to her status. What he has done is helping to harbour illigal imigrants. THATS A CRIME!!!

    November 1, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  19. Bola

    I'm in my mid-40s and I sure know that no member of my family – close or distant, have a say in where I go or live. Therefore, this half-sister of Senator Obama's father, is probably making her decisions and if you truly know the African culture, Senator Obama's position as a younger nephew, precludes him from making decisions for this Aunt. He has to respect her wishes, treat her as an elder and leave her to sort out the immigration status. Do any of us have family members or distant relatives with Chemical Dependency problems? If we do, can we count how many times we've intervened or tried to help them and nothing comes out of it? Before we start pointing fingers as usual, please let us know the whole story and by the way, this is an administrative issue which the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will sort out.

    November 1, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  20. Leigh

    Who cares? Compared to W letting in countless millions of illegals how is one well connected woman is an issue? The Republicans are sooo two faced,

    November 1, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  21. texan

    I applauded CNN's decision to NOT run Ashley Todd's story UNTIL it could be verified. Whether this story is true or not, I now have lost all respect for CNN to run this story without reliable verification. I'll be switching to another network.

    November 1, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  22. Paul

    Who cares? Obama met his own father only once. It's pretty obvious that he's close to his mother's family and not really close to his father's.

    November 1, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  23. Aubrey

    I know there are hundreds of Kenyans granted temporary/special political asylum because, as BBC has been reporting all of last year, Kenya has been in CIVIL WAR–genocide, tribal killings of whole villages–due to elections dispute.

    This lady may be like many other Kenyans granted stay here, just like in Europe, until it is safe to return home to Kenya–especially if women and children–the most vulnerable, are involved.

    November 1, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  24. FAYE, NV


    November 1, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  25. Anonymous

    Oh, sigh... here is yet another tidbit of drivel that will be used extensively by the fear-mongering, right-wing, dogmatic, racist pundits who claim they should be paid attention to, since we, the American voters, are being hypnotized by the liberal media.

    Sad. Just plain sad.

    November 1, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
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