President Obama’s 68-year-old uncle, Onyango Obama, got at least another 10 months in the U.S. after an immigration judge in Boston set a deportation hearing date for Dec. 3 to determine whether he will be returned to Kenya.
Onyango Obama has been living in the U.S. without documentation for nearly 50 years, ever since he arrived in October 1963 at age 17 to enroll in a Cambridge, Mass., boys school, according to a report in the Boston Globe. Although federal records show he was supposed to have left the U.S. by Dec. 24, 1970, Obama never went back to Kenya.
Earlier this week President Obama revealed his plans for sweeping immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants. The case of his uncle Onyango shows how personal the issue is for the president. Although he wasn’t as close to his father’s side of the family — during his childhood Obama barely saw his father, who died in a car crash in Kenya in 1982 — the president has many family members who come from outside the U.S.
Onyango had a deportation order issued against him 21 years ago, but he didn’t obey it, staying in the U.S. and working in Massachusetts as a liquor store manager. But he popped up on the radar screen of the authorities in August 2011, when he was arrested on drunk driving charges.
After his arrest, he said to police in Framingham, “I think I will call the White House.”
Onyango is seeking the same resolution as the president’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, another undocumented immigrant in the U.S. who was granted asylum in 2010, based in part on the exposure her case received, according to the Globe. She had been living illegally in the United States in Boston public housing, working as a computer programmer, when her status was leaked to the media just before Obama was elected in 2008, in an effort to embarrass him.
The uncle’s case is being handled by the same veteran immigration judge, Leonard I. Shapiro, a Republican appointee.
At the hearing, Onyango was part of a crowd of more than 30 immigrants from Pakistan, Guatemala and Uganda who were facing hearings. After the judge’s ruling setting the December date, Onyango Obama’s attorney, Scott Bratton, told reporters that his client’s long-term goal is to remain in the United States.
“Everybody wants to stay in America,’’ said Bratton. “Hopefully, on Dec. 3, the case will be over.’’
There have been criticisms in Boston that Onyango Obama, the president’s father’s half-brother, appears to be getting special treatment because he was released from immigration detention quickly after his arrest, despite the outstanding deportation order, and then secured a federal work permit and a state hardship driver’s license, since his own was temporarily revoked, so that he could return to work at a liquor store.