November 1st, 2008
12:43 PM ET
4 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. adg

    Does this realy matter? Arnold was'nt born in this country yet he is Governer of california! and a Republican!!! Im more concerned that Mccains hero is a nonplumber who claims to be a truthfull nontaxpayer!!!

    November 1, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  2. Kate

    And I thought it could not get any lower!!! How is this story relevant to the US election? are you implying Obama is responsible for this women's actions? or Are you reminding us that he is Black?

    Shame on You CNN !!!!

    November 1, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  3. Mike

    Wow, this a ridiculous story. CNN you are leaning far too much to right during the last week of the election.

    GOP must have spent a lot of ad money...

    November 1, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. martha

    I love that. ! Obama has an amazing background, he really represents the american dream, by the way she is OBAMA`S HALV AUNT. We love Obama here in skandinavia.

    November 1, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  5. Steve G

    This is not news, because it's typical Obama. He's a coctail of leftist political views:(said he "carefully sought out his friends...Marxist professors, structual feminists." Lets see the LA Times Obama video, complete with the dance troup imitaiting decapitating Jews and Americans!!

    November 1, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  6. Trysh in Los Angeles

    TAINOPOWER & INDEPENDENT VET....No wonder you support Palin...you are a ignorant about the American Constitution as she is. Sen. Obama's mother was a born, white, female, US CITIZEN....so, he could have been born in Red China....so, he is automatically a US Citizen. His birth certificate has already been verified, but it doesn't matter. US Citizens have babies on holiday, while working oversease or whatever...if the baby is born to a US Citizen, the baby is a US Citizen.

    Now, you may resume your regular ridiculousness. But, keep in mind. Its your vote to cast for whomever you want for whatever reason or reasons you want....you don't have to make up lies and excuses for not wanting to vote for the Black guy.

    November 1, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  7. Diana Ewing NJ

    Oh, the Novemeber surprise is here....

    Don't you think if he knew it... it would have been taken care of by now. Just another way, McCain is the same as Bush.

    November 1, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  8. GRIM-REAPER

    THIS STORY WIL ULTIMATELY HURT MCCAIN AMONG HISPANICS IN FLORIDA AND OUT WEST , IF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS PUSHING THIS STORY TO SMEAR OBAMA THEY MIGHT BE HANDING HIM FLORIDA , NEVADA , NEW MEXICO AND YES EVEN ARIZONA , THEY THINK THEY ARE SMEARING HIM ... BUT THEY JUST LOST THE ELECTION .

    November 1, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  9. tyson

    US Immigration is now part of Homeland Security. The difference between "legal" and "Illegal" is a signature. Just sign the stupid paper.

    November 1, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  10. Kay

    I am not surprised at this. He thought she was important enough to be part of his book, but not important enough to know if she was an illegal.

    Strange how many times Obama has been an innocent victim of ignorance. (like not knowing his preacher of 20 years was a radical?)

    This week at a rally he said "I am my brothers keeper". If you think he is going to "take care" of YOU, take a look at his family. This Aunt was living in government housing, and other family members live in poverty overseas.

    Wake up America. He's a car salesman posing as a politician. And he is laughing at all of you cult followers.

    November 1, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  11. J

    So what, is this another desperate GOP attempt?

    People are more worried about the incompetence and the high risk of having Sarah Palin as VP then that?

    November 1, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  12. Billy from Minneapolis

    This crap has gone on long enough! Who is the source of this information? CNN and all news organizations, if you can't confirm the story and it's source, THEN DON'T PRINT IT! It's so obvious that a story like this being printed the weekend before an election only to SMEAR a candidate!. End the smears NOW!

    November 1, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  13. wakeupamerica

    Why is this important?

    Obama/Biden '08

    November 1, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  14. Manh Duc (from Vietnam)

    This is news? Do you Americans have any seriousness in your media concern? This sounds so identical to what's happening in my country Vietnam, the most stupid communist regime of all.

    Poor Britney Spears!

    November 1, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  15. Jim in Missouri

    First, I can understand any news outlet feeling the need to run this story, since AP had already distributed it. CNN at least went the extra step of stating they had not verified it yet and had a call in to Obama's people.

    Is it relevant to the election? Based on current information no, but even though I'm an Obama supporter, I understand it's best to take a look, find out the facts, see what involvement, if any Obama has, etc. I can't imagine anything would come out that would alter my belief that Obama is the best candidate though.

    On the flip side, I also consider it important to investigate how the issue came to be released to the media, and whether such a release was in and of itself, illegal.

    These would be justifiable lines of inquiry at any time, but given how few days there are before the election, the timing seems likely to be much more than a coincidence.

    I think it important that CNN do all they can to discover if McCain's people knew about the issue for some time and if they have any ties to whomever decided to put a bug in AP's ear. After all, if the issue is all that important, it was important the moment McCain's people learned of it and as such, should have been made public at that time, don't you think?

    I imagine we'll hear something from Obama's camp as soon as they finish looking into the issue themselves. That they didn't give immediate response suggests that much of this is news to them too.

    November 1, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  16. B Taylor

    Are we voting for Senator Obama or his Aunt who is not advising him on any political decision!! Why does this even matter?

    November 1, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  17. David Minneapolis

    Fortunately so much early voting has already taken place before this 'story' surfaced, obviously designed to impact those who haven't made up their minds yet. We can only hope that there are enough new voters and young voters to make up for those eggheads who would let this story sway them one way or another. Remember Billy Carter? Most families have someone in their closet that they would prefer no one knew anything about. That's just how the cookie crumbles. Now onto fixing the economy and other real issues.

    November 1, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  18. John

    People this is a non-story but it is November 1 and the election is only 3 days away. In the end none of this will make a difference and here is why:
    The USA demographics are changing and only one party is addressing this. To see this just recall both conventions.
    A new power base is coming to on the scene along with a new spokesman in Obama. Republicans have to come to grips with the idea that it is no longer 1980 and Ronald Regan is long dead.
    Latinos and blacks, along with the young are now motivated and as a middle aged white man, I say it is about time. These are the people who will now have the power and if we are able to form a good coalition then this will be a better nation for it.
    Once Obama is elected the Republicans need to take a long look at where they are and join the new century

    November 1, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. Don

    Hey there Stephen in Kentucky – I am Don in Oklahoma

    Speaking of "shady characters" – how about McCain and the Keating bunch?

    Everyone's closet has some thing in it – don't open a door if your not willing to have someone open another.

    November 1, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  20. Nicole

    THE STRANGE THING IS NO MATTER WHAT YOU DIG UP AND TRY TO FIND OUT ON SENATOR OBAMA HE WILL STILL WIN!! HE IS THE BEST CANDIDATE AND HIS POLICIES ARE AWESOME!! IF OBAMA WERE WHITE WOULD THERE BE THIS MUCH CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING HIM!! I DOUBT IT, COMMON SENSE McSAME WILL CONTINUE THE SAME FAILED BUSH POLICIES AND HAVE US IN IRAQ FOR 20 YRS TO PROVE A POINT(10 BILLION/MONTH) AND KILL THOUSANDS MORE SONS AND DAUGHTERS!! GET A GRIP PEOPLE PUT YOUR RACISM ASIDE AND DO WHAT IS BEST FOR THIS COUNTRY. OBAMA/BIDEN 08

    November 1, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  21. ModerateMom

    If they went out and investigated all McCain's distant or barely related branches in his familty tree (or ANYone in the country's for that matter) it would be pretty easy to come up with some controversy. Let he who has no controversial branches in their family tree cast the first stone.

    And, I don't think this news is going to appeal to anyone except those who were already voting McCain anyway. Maybe the election coverage was getting too boring and repetitive, so someone had to come up with something to talk about.

    November 1, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  22. American Joe

    Obama has lied again. I am sure that his so-called educated people who run his campaign are fullt aware of her status. People you need to wake up. i am positively certain that 45 – 50 % of the people voting for obama has no idea of what he stands for and are only voting for other reasons that will come back to haunt them. First of all, if you call yourself a Christian, then you have no business voting for someone who wants to kill more babies, allow gay marriage, and the list goes on and on.
    May God have mercy on us. We have truly lost our way.

    November 1, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  23. 0changes

    I don't think this issue is important for the election at all. The main issue is about Obama. I don't even know why he even runs for president, and what qualifications does he have for this job?

    November 1, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  24. Obama Supporter

    My ENTIRE extended family is in Europe. I have NO contact with them. If one of them came here illegally, I wouldn't have a clue. Obama had NO contact with his father's family after he was 10 years old, other than 1 visit as an adult. How does this make him guilty of anything. Give me a break.

    Where is the story about Palin and her complaints about her constitutional rights being violated over the media saying she is running a negative campaign. I would say her complete lack of knowledge on the meaning of the constitution is far bigger and more important news than his aunt that may or maynot be illegally here.

    November 1, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  25. Ro

    I'm not responsible for my extended distant family and neither is Obama, nor Cindy McCain et al, for that matter. In the meantime, I'm far more concerned about the real issues facing this nation. My daughter, laid off after eight years with a large corporation and struggling to find new work in this environment; my parents, elderly and ailing, losing their home after a lifetime of work and saving because insurance is inadequate for their current medical needs; my neighborhood, having more and more foreclosed homes; my 401k, doing the disappearing act; my son-in-law, fighting in Iraq, again. I could continue, but most of you are facing the same problems in your own neighborhoods and families.

    Wake up, people! We simply cannot afford four more years of the same lousy policies. If you enjoy what's happening, vote for McCain and continue it. If you realize these policies are hurting America and we need change, vote Obama. It's never been simpler; never been a clearer choice.

    November 1, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58