Obama’s Aunt Zeituni back in court tomorrow, President staying out of it (he says)

Update April 1st:   Auntie gets to stay until 2010 when another hearing is scheduled, here.   Just kick that can down the road some more.

President Obama’s Auntie Zeituni is back in immigration court tomorrow in Boston according to a report from the Associated Press today.   Readers will recall that Obama was supposedly surprised just before election day last fall to discover his Kenyan aunt,  Zeituni Onyanga, who had been ordered deported years ago, was still in the US illegally.   You can read all of our previous posts on Onyanga here.

BOSTON (AP) – Barack Obama’s Kenyan aunt lost her bid for asylum more than four years ago, and a judge ordered her deported. Instead, Zeituni Onyango stayed, living for years in public housing.

Now, in a case that puts the president in a tough position both personally and politically, Onyango’s request is being reconsidered under a little-used provision in U.S. immigration rules that allows denied asylum claims to be reheard if applicants can show that something has changed to make them eligible.

Such as the ascension of her nephew to the presidency of the world’s most powerful country.

“If she goes back to Kenya, she is going to be much more in the limelight, and that, in and of itself, could put her at a greater risk. The chances of her going back and keeping a low profile are gone at this point,” said Boston immigration attorney Ilana Greenstein.

Onyango, 56, the half-sister of Obama’s late father, moved to the United States in 2000. Her first bid for asylum was rejected, and an immigration judge ordered her deported in 2004; she continues to live in public housing in Boston.

In December, a judge agreed to suspend the deportation order and reopen her case. An initial hearing is scheduled Wednesday in U.S. Immigration Court in Boston.

Obama acts like he had no idea how Onyanga got into the US the most recent time, however, she attended his swearing in as a US Senator in late 2004 (or January 2005, whenever it was), and according to the AP at that point in time she had already been ordered deported.  Do any of  you believe she never told her nephew about problems with her immigration status?  So, what did Obama know and when did he know it?

What does asylum mean? *

People who seek asylum must show that they face persecution in their homeland on the basis of religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group.

We admit a staggering number of asylees each year, over 81,000 in 2007, but rarely from Kenya considered a relatively stable country.

Over the past decade, relatively few Kenyans have sought asylum in the United States: 223 in fiscal year 2007 – compared with 7,934 asylum requests from China and 10,522 from El Salvador – and only 50 Kenyans that year were granted asylum. From 1998 through 2007, about 20 percent of Kenyans who applied were granted asylum, according to an Associated Press review of immigration records.

Onyanga’s attorney is not talking about her grounds for an appeal of the earlier decision, but Onyanga’s tribe, the Luo, happen to not be in power at the moment.  (See one of the many articles about Obama’s complicated family tree, here, with suggestions that one of them will be taken for blackmail.)  I guess that is one of the many issues never discussed by the mainstream media in the Presidential election campaign last fall —- what happens when we have a President with far-flung  foreign family members? 

Onyango’s reasons for seeking asylum have not been made public, and her immigration hearing will be closed at her lawyer’s request.

Kenya has been fractured by violence in recent years. In 2008, more than 1,000 people were killed in the East African nation following a disputed presidential poll, which saw a Luo candidate, Raila Odinga, declared loser to President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, the largest tribe in Kenya.

Obama is between a rock and a hard place.  If he hangs Auntie out to dry, the open borders crowd will pounce.  If he shows any favoritism the rest of us will be steamed, but since we obviously don’t count, what do you think might be going on behind the scenes?

Onyango has not responded to requests for interviews. Her case is being closely watched by people on all sides of the immigration debate. Some critics say her status has already damaged the president’s credibility on immigration issues.

“The president’s moral authority has been compromised by his aunt’s situation,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “Americans have the right to expect aliens to respect our law, to leave when they are supposed to and not thumb their nose at the legal system.”

Yes, Mr. Stein, we expect it, but I wouldn’t count on it.


  • In Europe a debate is raging about changing the definition of asylum and allowing anyone coming from any trouble spot in the world to seek asylum without proving they themselves are personally in danger.   From the Wall Street Journal:

BRUSSELS — Refugees seeking asylum in the European Union don’t have to demonstrate that they are specifically targeted for harm if there is widespread and indiscriminate violence in their home countries, Europe’s highest court ruled after reviewing the case of two Iraqi nationals who had fled the war in their country.

The case could lead Europe to admit more asylum-seekers — a touchy subject on a continent that prides itself on broad human-rights protection but often struggles to integrate immigrants and is wrestling with growing unemployment.

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