- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 1, 2008

CHICAGO (AP) – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Saturday he didn’t know that one of his relatives was living in the United States illegally and believes the appropriate laws should be followed.

The Associated Press found that Obama’s aunt had been instructed to leave the country four years ago by an immigration judge who rejected her request for asylum from her native Kenya. The woman, Zeituni Onyango (zay-TUHN on-YANG-oh), is living in public housing in Boston and is the half-sister of Obama’s late father.

A statement given to the AP by Obama’s campaign said, “Senator Obama has no knowledge of her status but obviously believes that any and all appropriate laws be followed.”

Onyango is part of Obama’s large paternal family, with many related to him by blood whom he barely knows. Obama first met Onyango when he traveled to Africa as an adult — he referred to her as “Auntie Zeituni” in his memoir.

The campaign said he has seen her a few times since that meeting, beginning with a return trip to Kenya with his wife, Michelle, four years after the first trip. Onyango visited the family in Chicago on a tourist visa at Obama’s invitation about nine years ago, the campaign said, stopping to visit friends on the East coast before returning to Kenya.

She attended Obama’s swearing-in to the U.S. Senate in 2004, but campaign officials said Obama provided no assistance in getting her a tourist visa and doesn’t know the details of her stay. The campaign said he last heard from her about two years ago when she called saying she was in Boston, but he did not see her there.

Onyango’s refusal to leave the country would represent an administrative, noncriminal violation of immigration law, meaning such cases are handled outside the criminal court system. Estimates vary, but many experts believe there are more than 10 million such immigrants in the U.S.

According to Federal Election Commission documents filed by the Obama campaign, Onyango has contributed $260 to Obama over a period of time. Under federal election law, only U.S. citizens or green-card holders are legally permitted to give money to campaigns. Onyango, who listed her employer as the Boston Housing Authority, gave in small increments to the Obama campaign. Her latest contribution was $5 on Sept. 19.

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