A Republican lawmaker wants to call President Obama’s aunt to testify to Congress about whether she was given preferential treatment when she was granted asylum — but her lawyers say she won’t appear.
After initially being ordered deported, Zeituni Onyango was granted asylum by an immigration judge last month. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the House immigration subcommittee, said that raises questions that she must answer. He said he wants to invite Ms. Onyango to be a witness at a hearing Thursday.
“I am concerned about the public perception that favoritism played a role in the grant of asylum to Ms. Onyango,” Mr. King wrote in a letter to subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat.
“In order to better determine whether favoritism played a role — especially because Ms. Onyango had been earlier turned down for asylum and was ordered to be deported in 2004 before her nephew became president — the subcommittee needs to hear from Ms. Onyango herself,” he said.
Ms. Onyango’s lawyers announced the ruling in her case, which Mr. King said makes the usually private asylum proceedings fair game for a congressional hearing.
A spokesman for Ms. Onyango’s lawyers said she will not testify, and said Mr. Obama did not exercise influence in the case.
“She didn’t get preferential treatment,” said Mike Rogers, the spokesman for Margaret W. Wong, the Cleveland-based lawyer who represented Ms. Onyango.
A Democratic aide said Mr. King’s move was odd because he didn’t follow the usual procedure of inviting witnesses. The aide said usually the minority party secures the witness’s agreement first, and then has the panel issue the invitation.
The invitation may also be premature because the government can still appeal the grant of asylum.
Mr. Onyango initially applied for asylum in 2002 but was rejected. When her status came to light in 2008, Mr. Obama’s staff said he was not aware she was in the country illegally.