The White House finally acknowledged Thursday that an illegal immigrant detained in Massachusetts recently is President Obama’s “long-lost” uncle from Kenya.
Mr. Obama learned Monday from his press secretary, Jay Carney, that Onyango Obama, 67, also known as “Uncle Omar,” had surfaced in a suburb of Boston after being charged with drunken driving.
“He became aware of this story when I walked into his office and, among other subjects, mentioned it to him,” Mr. Carney said. “It was new to him on Monday.”
It was the first public comment by the White House about the case.
The president’s uncle is fighting deportation to Kenya, but Mr. Carney added, “We expect it to be handled like any other immigration case.”
The elder Mr. Obama was ordered deported in 1992, but he stayed in the U.S.
He was arrested last week in Framingham, about 20 miles west of Boston, after police said he made a rolling stop through a stop sign and nearly caused a cruiser to strike his sport utility vehicle.
Police said that after being booked at the police station, Onyango Obama was asked whether he wanted to make a telephone call to arrange for bail. “I think I will call the White House,” he stated, according to a police report filed in Framingham District Court.
He is the younger half-brother of the president’s father, Barack Obama Sr.
The president has said in the past that all his family knew about the man was that he left for America decades ago and never returned to Kenya.
Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who has fought for an immigration crackdown, said he suspects that Onyango Obama “will have an advantage … when it comes time to determine who is granted amnesty.”
In the president’s 1995 memoir “Dreams From My Father,” he writes that he learned in 1988 through family members in Kenya that his Uncle Omar had come to the United States 25 years earlier.
In 2010, the president’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, the half-sister of Mr. Obama’s late father, was granted asylum in the United States. She had moved from Kenya to the United States in 2000, and first applied for asylum in 2002, citing violence in Kenya. Her request was rejected in 2004, but she stayed in the U.S., living in public housing in Boston.
When it was reported in 2008 that Mrs. Onyango was possibly in the country illegally, Mr. Obama said he was unaware of her status.