Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama said Saturday he didn’t know his aunt was living in the United States illegally and believes that laws covering the situation 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, 56, is part of Obama’s large paternal family, with many related to him by blood whom he never knew growing up.
Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., left the future presidential nominee when the boy was 2, and they reunited only once — for a monthlong visit when Obama was 10. The elder Obama lived most of his life in Kenya, where he fathered six other sons and a daughter with three other wives. He died in a car crash in 1982.
Obama was raised for the most part by his mother and her parents in Hawaii. He first met his father’s side of the family when he traveled to Africa 20 years ago. He referred to Onyango as “Auntie Zeituni” when describing the trip in his memoir, saying she was “a proud woman.”
Obama’s campaign said he had seen her a few times since that meeting, beginning with a return trip to Kenya with his future wife, Michelle, in 1992.
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.
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