Obama’s Aunt in U.S. Illegally

Ross Perot famously had a crazy aunt in the basement. Barack Obama, it seems, has an illegal one in living in the Boston projects.

Barack Obama did not know a relative was living in the United States illegally for the past nearly four years prior to today’s Associated Press report, “but obviously believes that any and all appropriate laws be followed,” the campaign said Saturday in a statement.

The Democratic nominee last heard from Zeituni Onyango, who attended his swearing-in ceremony to the U.S. Senate in 2005 and is a half-sister of Obama’s late father, two years ago, when she called to say she was in Boston, the campaign said. Campaign officials said they did not assist her in getting a tourist visa and had not known that she was living in America.

News of Onyango’s legal status, which the AP confirmed through sources, including a federal law enforcement official, provided an unwelcome diversion for the Obama campaign during its final push toward Election Day and stoked suspicions among supporters of a political motive behind the timing of the leak.

“The American people are pretty sensible,” said Obama chief strategist David Axelrod, “and I think they are pretty suspicious of things that are dumped in the marketplace 72 hours before a campaign, so I am not concerned about that.” Asked whether he was suggesting there were political motives from a Republican administration, Axelrod said: “I am not saying anything at this point.”


John McCain seems to be staying far away from the issue, making no mention of Obama’s family in his two Virginia appearances this morning. His press aides have also remained quiet, issuing no statement about her immigration status.


The Associated Press reported that Onyango had been instructed to leave the country four years ago by an immigration judge who rejected her request for asylum from her native Kenya. Onyango is living in public housing in Boston.

Onyago is quite literally a distant relative, the half sister of an absent father until recently living in Kenya whom he first met as an adult and has only occasional contact since. There’s been zero evidence — indeed, zero suggestion — that Obama knew she was in the country illegally, let alone did anything to hide her status.

Two questions come to mind, though.

First, how the heck is someone who has been ordered deported by a federal judge living in public housing four years later?! Don’t we cross-reference lists? Indeed, why are non-citizens living in public housing?

Second, how did this information come out now?

Federal privacy law restricts U.S. immigration agencies from disclosing information about citizens and permanent residents, and DHS policy similarly limits disclosures about the status of legal and illegal immigrants. Asylum-seekers are granted greater protection, because of the sensitive nature of their claims and the risks of retaliation.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the matter has been referred to the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility and its parent department’s inspector general. “They are looking into whether there was a violation of policy in publicly disclosing individual case information,” ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said. “We can’t comment on individual cases.”

While some even on the reasonable Left are dubbing this a smear and claiming Republican dirty tricks, Team McCain is taking the high road on this one:

Mark Salter, a McCain adviser, called the issue “a family matter.”

And only tangentially that for Obama.  Michelle Malkin, interestingly, disagrees.

It’s the Bush administration that has moved to protect Aunti Zeituni. It’s the pro-shamnesty Bush administration that will ensure that nothing happens to her. Pro-shamnesty McCain isn’t going to touch the story.


By the way: Where in the world is Aunti Zeituni? Who knows? And if it wasn’t Barack Obama who helped her get here, who did? How did she get a Social Security card? Who advised her to apply for public housing? Who did she know with a saavy enough legal background to help her navigate the paperwork of the welfare state?

Given the size of both the welfare rolls and the illegal alien population, Obama’s been a busy man, indeed, if he’s advising all of them.  Somehow, I’m guessing that it’s not all that hard.

Perhaps she took her guidance from the old Genesis song, all the while ignoring the fact that it’s no fun being an illegal alien?

via memeorandum

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. sam says:

    Of course this is the latest enthusiasm over at K-Lo’s House of Crazy (tm John Cole). They’re all suffering from some kind of postpartum depression over there since Hawaii’s director of the Department of Health released a statement verfying Obama’s birth certificate.

  2. Jim Henley says:

    They’re frustrated that Hawaii’s Director of the Department of Health continues to embargo the “Whitey” tape.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    First, how the heck is someone who has been ordered deported by a federal judge living in public housing four years later?! Don’t we cross-reference lists? Indeed, why are non-citizens living in public housing?

    You might find this helpful, James.

    As a rule in federally-subsidized housing at least one household member must have legal status. “Household” has a fairly shaky definition and I’m not sure how one would go about verifying the facts of the situation on an up-to-date basis.

    State subsidized housing has no such restriction in Massachusetts.

    And in answer to the final part of your question information processing at most levels of government is woefully, remarkably outdated. Not only aren’t lists cross-referenced my guess is that there isn’t even a consolidated list of people in public housing but thousands or tens of thousands of individual lists, kept in no systematic manner.

  4. Leave the poor lady alone.

    All this information demonstrates is just how little Big Media has bothered to look into Senator Obama for it to come out this late.

    Oh, and it is noted that any information which does not burnish the image of The One is a smear to the Angry Left.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Second, how did this information come out now?

    In answer to your second question, James, Sen. Obama hasn’t been properly vetted either by the Democratic Party or the press and we’ll see all sorts of embarrassing things come out when (and if) he’s elected.

  6. Airic says:

    You should change the title, she is not here “illegally”. This is now a civil case not a criminal one.

  7. just me says:

    Whether her case is civil or criminal doesn’t matter as far as whether she should be here at all.

    I also can’t help but wonder why Obama, a wealthy man in his own right, thinks I should be taxes to help his Aunt live in public housing. Why isn’t Obama spreading his wealth to his own family members. I contrast this to the Aunt McCain and his wife provide housing for-at least McCain and his wife try to provide for family members who can’t provide for themselves. I wonder why Obama doesn’t provide?

  8. Triumph says:

    As a rule in federally-subsidized housing at least one household member must have legal status.

    This is key. Not a lot of people know this but Auntie Zeituni is married to Joe the Plumber.

  9. Tricia Edwards says:

    I think they are just trying to come up with whatever they can to get people to not vote for him. There are millions and millions of illegal immigrants living in the united states and receiving public housing and assistance and you don’t see that making headlines.

  10. Bithead says:

    Just me; You ask the correct questions, and the oens the left would like you to ignore. The answer can be found in the Democrat way of dealing with ‘charity’.

    Examnples abound;

    We see Obama’s tax returns since 2000, and we find his giving amounted to less tha 1% of the millions he’s made.

    We see Joe Biden, who made millions in the last two years, gave a grand total of $3300 to charity. A Democrat thinks charity is the work of government.

    Yet, as you note, we see Democrats screaming the government should do more. Clearly, a Democrat thinks charity is the work of government.

    Peter Schweizer, of UK’s Daily Mail, said last June:

    George Orwell once wrote that politics was closely related to social identity. ‘One sometimes gets the impression,’ he wrote in The Road To Wigan Pier, ‘that the mere words socialism and communism draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, nature-cure quack, pacifist and feminist in England’.

    Orwell was making an observation. But today a whole body of academic research shows he was correct: your politics influence the manner in which you live your life. And the news is not so good for those on the political Left.

    There is plenty of data that shows that Right-wingers are happier, more generous to charities, less likely to commit suicide – and even hug their children more than those on the Left.

    This is a shock to me not at all, except possibly that someone did get charged under hate crime laws for printing it in what’s left of the UK. Schweizer, goes on:

    In the Sixties, we saw the beginning of a narcissism and self-absorption that gripped the Left and has not let go.

    The full-scale embrace of the importance of self-awareness, self-discovery and being ‘true’ to oneself, along with the idea that the State should care for the less fortunate, has created a swathe of Left-wing people who want to outsource their obligations to others.

    Outsource it to where? Why, to government of course. The left feels it’s doing it’s part if they’re paying into a system ostensibly designed to maintain the poor at a minimum standard of living and solve all their problems. The fact that the government systems the left think so highly of does not do so, matters not at all. Don’t bother the left with mere facts.

    And let’s look at what the left considers ‘chairty’…

    Uber-progressive Barbra Streisand gives lots of money to charity but the largest recipients are not organisations that feed the hungry – the cash goes to advocacy organisations such as The Bill Clinton Foundation.

    Similarly, Michael Moore gives to film festivals and elite cultural institutions such as the Lincoln Center – but barely a penny goes to needy people.

    The ideas of the left surrounding charity are completely nihilist. Supporting the poor and the needy is government work, to the left. Charity, they view not as supporting non-government engines that actually help the poor, but rather to these, charity is supporting political groups that support their own worldview.

    And so, Obama’s family member sits in a rat infested slum in Boston, from whom his campaign has already accepted money to help him get elected…. ON the record it comes out to around $260.

    And even leaving aside that she is an illegal alien, which by definition makes her a foreign national and thereby the political donations illegal, there seems to me a moral lesson here, and therein an answer to your questions.

  11. Pug says:

    Tuesday is going to be a long, long day for you, Bithead. I can hardly wait.

    By the way, you may be the only person in America who gives a damn what Peter Schweizer of the UK Daily Mail has to say. You and Lady Lynn de Rothschild, of course.

  12. Floyd says:

    “”Obama’s Aunt in U.S. Illegally””
    And he’s not??

  13. Bithead says:

    By the way, you may be the only person in America who gives a damn what Peter Schweizer of the UK Daily Mail has to say. You and Lady Lynn de Rothschild, of course

    So, I’m supposed to ignore a source because you don’t like it? Or perhaps this is about the ideas which you can’t argue against, as easily as you can attack the source?

    And he’s not??

    Yeah, well there is that, isn’t there? That nagging question…

  14. sam says:

    Yeah, well there is that, isn’t there? That nagging question…

    You read my comment at the top, Bit?

  15. Floyd says:

    That could explain Last week’s trip to Hawaii, now wouldn’t it!

  16. rodney dill says:

    Illegal alien?
    What does she charge for housekeeping services.

  17. MM says:

    And he’s not??


    Hope that helps.

    Seriously, there are multiple perfectly reasonable reasons to oppose an Obama presidency, and I think that JJ and Verdon have proved that here. But that’s all boring and what not, so let’s keep pretending that Obama is a secret Muslim from Kenya/Canada/Malcom X’s vagina.

    That said, I will give Joyner credit for allowing Rodney Dill to contribute here after his parents have clearly told him to go to bed.

  18. Bithead says:

    You read my comment at the top, Bit?

    Of course.
    Did you see Floyd’s response?
    He’s right.
    Given who runs that place, such manipulation wouldn’t shock me at all.

    And even assuming the doc is legit, which I doubt, (Why the hell did it take so long for this to get answered? Took time to fabricate?) that still doesn’t answer the question of giving up his citizenship for that Indonesian school.

  19. Eric says:

    Uh, oh. Looks like you righty loonies may have actually *increased* Obama’s aunt’s chances of citizenship (h/t TPM):

    These regulations safeguard information that, if disclosed publicly, could subject the claimant to retaliatory measures by government authorities or non-state actors in the event that the claimant is repatriated, or endanger the security of the claimant’s family members who may still be residing in the country of origin. Moreover, public disclosure might, albeit in rare circumstances, give rise to a plausible protection claim where one would not otherwise exist by bringing an otherwise ineligible claimant to the attention of the government authority or non-state actor against which the claimant has made allegations of mistreatment.

    Talk about a case of shooting yourself in the foot. Great job, Einsteins.

  20. Bithead says:

    Ummmmm. Eric… you’re not REALLY suggesting that the London Times is controlled by the Republicans, are you?

  21. Floyd says:

    Just how do you improve on a “lead pipe cinch”??