Barack Obama’s long lost “Aunti Zeituni” from Kenya was discovered by the Associated Press to be living illegally in the United States after an immigration judge rejected her request for asylum four years ago.
Zeituni Onyango, the 56-year-old half-sister of Obama’s late father, has been living quietly in a Boston housing project. She was mentioned in the Democratic presidential candidate’s memoir but is not a relative whom Obama has discussed in campaign appearances.
Federal privacy law restricts U.S. immigration agencies from disclosing information about citizens and permanent residents, and DHS policy similarly limits disclosures about the status of legal and illegal immigrants. Asylum-seekers are granted greater protection, because of the sensitive nature of their claims and the risks of retaliation.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the matter has been referred to the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility and its parent department’s inspector general.
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.
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.
“Given the information that has been brought to our attention, the contributions are being refunded,” said Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman. “Senator Obama has no knowledge of her status but obviously believes that any and all appropriate laws be followed.”