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. Adam

    The stupidity that abounds in the Republican base never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for the Saturday morning humor :o) I'm sure if I were a public figure, there would be right wing morons saying, "Adam voted for Obama, but we're not sure if Adam is a US citizen because his great-grandmother was born in Canada. Therefore, he's a Canadian, not a US citizen!!!"

    Adam
    WISCONSIN

    November 1, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  2. Jean Claude

    The media should focus on issues that matter the Amaricans. This has nothing to do with Senator Barack Obama. This Womon is not running for president. idiot! If you don't have any think to air why don't you just be silent. People are getting sick and tired of media. You should be ashmed !!!

    November 1, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  3. Chelsea

    I have one word: AND????

    November 1, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  4. Brasil

    Why is McCain's navy records seald?????

    November 1, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  5. Sane American

    Man, you gotta love it. As long as the news is positive about Barack and negative about McCain/Palin, The liberals are all comfy cozy; but let any negativity come out about their favorites and all heck busts loose.

    Palin effigy gets hung up and they are politely asked to take it down. Obama effigy gets hung up and tehy are arrested.

    Actions speak louder than words. Obama is going to reach across teh political aisle yet he throws dissenters off his campaign plan? Duh!

    November 1, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  6. Chris

    Awesome !!!
    an invitation to all the supporters of illegal immigration ..
    vote for NObama !!!

    November 1, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  7. WVU Student

    Why in the HELL does this matter?

    I've grown up in a Republican based family until the 2004 election.. It's clear that Obama is the best choice for this country with the Karl Rove style strategies that the GOP has been using. They don't try to appeal to voters on issues.. instead they try to smear the other candidates with garbage.

    I realize politics will always be politics, and I understand that the Dems haven't kept it entirely clean either, but when you choose Palin as a VP, it's pretty obvious you aren't going to have great judgement to run this country.

    To those complaining about taxes.. why are you complaining if you're making over 200k? This country should require it's wealthier population to pay more than those who aren't as fortunate. I can say that I'm proud that my family will be voting for that.. to give back to this country that has given so much to them to help rebuild it

    Obama Biden '08

    November 1, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  8. sandee in Portland

    I am totally apalled that this is even news. I feel sorry for her because she obviously wanted to come to a better country to live just like most of the immigrants.

    Obama has only met her once. She is the half sister of a father he never really knew. He probably has lots of relatives he knows nothing about. And, if he knew she was here, he probably would have tried to get the feds to let her stay just because of the conditions that exist in the country she's from.

    To put this into perspective, it is very minor compared to all the skeletons in McCain and Palin's closet, including but not limited to abuse of ethics, Keating 5, making anti-war movies for the Viet Cong, shady characters in both Palin and McCain's past as well.

    So, for all my far, right wing conservative republicans, go ahead and throw stones. I am still a moderate republican that will vote for Obama that wants to continue to separation of church and state.

    This is just more mud slinging from the republicans. They are trying to come up with anything that will turn this election around to their favor just like in 2000 and 2004.

    November 1, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  9. linbit-Greensboro, NC

    She MAY be in US illegally? As has been reported over and over, the AP head is in the tank for McCain and they have been doing all they can to report things unfavorably for Obama. Check it out before you report it, otherwise you're just another FOX clone.

    November 1, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  10. Janine Makwaia

    America c'mon get a grip!! Mcain if you are loosing try to loose with grace... You will be admired and remembered fondly if you and your supporters stop displaying your obvious ignorance of reality publicly.

    For those royal/real citizens of America the Brave, the landy of plenty... what happened to that spirit... you sound bitter about a woman donating $5?
    By The way Obama is going to be a great president... he is intelligent, he surrounds himself with intelligent people who are sensitive to people's needs.

    For God's sake stop with the his skin color bull... white or black skin tone doesn't make a difference.... His skin color won't be involved in making negotions to make America a better place....
    His record, his ambitions, his beliefs that change starts from the bottom up, his humble background... his tolerance to people who look and think different from him....
    Those characters will make him a good president... not his skin color so get over his whiteness or blackness...

    November 1, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  11. RLA

    If the above responses are supposed to be representative of what's best in America...of what's good in people and if they are samples of what goes for decent behavior and attitude in this still new century, (exampled as in McChips comments above using the term McLiar and McPalinLiad), we don't deserve the freedom of speech that so many have fought and died for. Should one call Mr. Obama "ObamaLiar" because he changed his position on agreeing to taking federal campaign funds which would have restricted his access ro donations? Of course not.

    Some of the above people seem to be treating this campaign as if it's a kill all/hate all video game to be played by a mindless 17 year old with a grudge against the world.

    Freedom of speech as expressed in most of the above commentaries shouldn't be laced with pathetic and vile triabes against anyone with a different view or opposing philosophy. Obviously many of the commentors have no civility, manners, or integrity in their own upbringing or lives. Many don't even know how to spell correctly or use proper grammer.

    Whether for or against either candidate, taking the very lowest road to express your thoughts or position is the cheap way out. No wonder we're in the trouble we're in with people like these walking around.

    You have freedom of expression America...but pardon the rest of us if we look down upon you if you choose to express it from the gutter you seem to be content to be in.

    November 1, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  12. Jarda

    Check who came wit this news...and if you see AP was first to report it...then just forget it. AP became tank for Republicans and Johny the Loser. They will even report if Sasha or Malia had problems with their stomach after eating too much candies on Halloween and it points our Barack Obama is not good father because he was suppose to prevent it .
    What more low level reports come out in last 3 days?

    November 1, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  13. RootBoy

    Get a life.....

    November 1, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  14. American made

    Wow isn't this amazing....if this was John McCain’s aunt it would be breaking news on CNN....this is very important....1) she is living here illegally 2) she has contributed money to Obama's campaign which is illegal and 3) she is living in public housing .....Paid for by the tax payers....that housing is for American Citizens who desperately need it, wonder whose sleeping out in the cold because she's got their home.....FOLKS THIS IS A BIG DEAL.. I agree she is not Obama's responsibility, but she is a illegal send her packing, we need to find all the illegals here and send them home, maybe we would have such a economic crisis if we were not paying for folks who should be here. Housing/health care/what else is she getting from us???? Makes you wonder and who isn't doing their job with these illegals.

    November 1, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  15. kristy-AZ

    Ok, unless Barack Obama has this woman held hostage in his home and she is part of a immigrant smuggling operation, THIS IS IRRELEVANT! I understand we have never had a multiracial presidential candidate so there are a lot of unexplored angles here, but come on.
    What I do find interesting is that this woman who obviously does not have a lot of money has given small donations to his campaign just like the rest of us, We cant really afford to, but IT IS THAT IMPORTANT TO OUR COUNTRY THAT THIS MAN BE ELECTED,
    GO OBAMA!
    GO AMERICA!

    November 1, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  16. Blue Man

    Why have we not seen Palin's medical records? My guess is the downs baby is her daughters? hmmm.......every other candidate has relaesed theirs, but why not hers. Bring it up if you want to throw mud! OBAMA BIDEN 2008.

    November 1, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  17. Concerned Voter

    How does Obama not know about her status?!?

    Seems like whenever something bad comes up, it's, "I didn't know him then; I had no knowledge of that at the time; I never heard anything inappropriate; I don't remember; I don't know of her status."

    What does this man know???

    November 1, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  18. Nurses For OBAMA

    WOW!!!!! I have neighbors that are here illegally...there's like 10 living in a 2 bedroom house.....I don't see anyone doing anything about that...so whats the big deal. If your going to deport 1...deport them all!!! No exceptions!!! Oh yea..I guess that wont help Mccain win..Give me a break!!

    Obama 08

    November 1, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  19. M. WINNERS

    Obama's right – Send her home if she's an illegal.

    But then again, the neocon repugliCON toxic slime merchants will be disappointed.

    WAIT, I see a hate ad from McCain coming in 3-2-1...

    November 1, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  20. LAB

    Why report on this item when I see nothing from you on Palins 10/31/08 conservative radio comments (Washington WMAL-AM) claiming that reporters might be violating her own First Amendment rights when they accuse her hate-mongering campaign of engaging in negative campaigning! She and other politicians try to intimidate the press from exercising their job of full reporting (ie by denying them further access/interviews, etc).

    November 1, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  21. Becky

    This is so lame.So who cares?What has this and the fact that he's running for the Presidency got in connection.not even close to a good try.Not nice

    November 1, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  22. DI

    THIS IS JUST ONE MORE QUESTION ABOUT OBAMA AND WHY IS IT OK FOR OBAMA TO BREAK ALL RULES????? AND WHY IS HE CALLED A BLACK MAN UH!!!! ISN'T HE 1/2 WHITE WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT HALF? AND THE REASON HE CAN BUY HIS WAY THROUGH THIS IS ILLEGAL CONTRIBUTIONS....WHICH HE LIED ABOUT....WOULD ALL TRUE AMERICANS PLEASE STAND UP TAKE A VOTE ON THE ONLY TRUE AMERICAN IN THIS RACE McCAIN WHETHER YOU LIKE HIM OR NOT..... ISN'T THAT WHAT THE DEM'S ARE DOING (CLINTON'S) SHAME ON EVERYONE THAT BELIEVES IN THIS MAN BECAUSE YOUR ONLY VOTING FOR A COLOR...NOT WHAT'S BEST FOR AMERICA.....

    November 1, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  23. Chidi

    This is ridiculous. First of this information was leaked to the AP, by an anonymous souce within USCIS within the last 48 hours of the election cycle. This violates USCIS policies. Second point I will make ot address those who question why Obama hasn't given her any money. If he was sending Money to her, then people will claim his harboring an illegal immigrant. Now he isn't sending money to her, some of the republicans are angry that he didn't support her. In reality, they're angry that they can't pin her to Barack Obama.

    Finally, her issue is an administrative issue and not a criminal one. Let USCIS deal with it. Good move for them to ensure that any deportations over the next week go to the highest echeleons of the department. I can imagine a republican within the dept trying to influence the election by begining deportation proceedings

    November 1, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  24. Tom Smith

    Are we so trivial in this country that we try to dig up the most ridiculous issues and make them CNN Headline News. How many immigrants are there in her status. Please CNN let's worry about what matters. I could careless what her immigration status is. Why not focus on what is going on GOOD and BAD for the rest of America. PLEASE FOCUS on what't important and not the trivia that we honestly don
    t care about. Mr. Obama's family is a mix just like the rest of our society, Is not Mr. McCain's also. Last time I checked he was not of Native American decent. WHO CARES!!!

    November 1, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  25. Phil

    Oh you mean the sister of his biological father that left him when he was 2 years old and died in 1982? That aunt? Yeah I'm sure they're real close. Just like I'm real close to my biological father's family who left when I was 5 years old. Oh wait, no I don't know anything about them.

    November 1, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
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