Shame of Obama aunt asylum files

In this file picture taken on February 4, 2010 US President Barack Obama's paternal aunt, Zeituni Onyango (C), is escorted from the John F. Kennedy Federal Building after a hearing on her plea to remain in the United States on in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo/AFP

An aunt of President Barack Obama was allowed to stay in the United States on the shocking grounds that she would be persecuted by Kenyan leaders if she was forced to return to the country.

And on Wednesday, the government reacted angrily to the US Immigration court’s apparent endorsement of claims by Ms Zeituni Onyango -- the half-sister of the American President’s Kenyan father -- that she would be persecuted if she was deported.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Mutula Kilonzo described the claims as “ridiculous and an insult to Kenyans”.

Zeituni convinced a US judge three months ago that she feared “persecution by some members of the Kenyan government” and was allowed to stay in the US although she had been classified as an illegal immigrant after her visa expired.

Said Mr Kilonzo: “The insinuation about Kenya’s inability to protect Ms Obama is outrageous, misplaced and an insult to the Kenyan state.

“President Obama’s grandmother is here and she is treated like a royalty. It is unfortunate because Kenya enjoys cordial relations with the United States.”

A 29-page written decision on the case was made public on Monday under the US Freedom of Information Act.

Immigration judge Leonard Shapiro had ruled in May that it was due to this that Ms Zeituni, an undocumented immigrant in the US, was entitled to asylum.

He wrote that because her US immigration status and relationship to the US president had been disclosed, Ms Zeituni “will be a target if she is removed to Kenya.”

Obama’s politics

The threat to her safety stemmed not only from “individuals opposed to the United States government or President Obama, but [from] members of the Kenyan Government who oppose President Obama’s politics and/or his ethnicity, which (Ms Zeituni) shares,” Mr Shapiro said.

Elsewhere in his ruling, sections of which have been blacked-out to prevent release of confidential information, it is stated, “now that her status as an asylum applicant has been disclosed, she would be considered a traitor to her government.”

It is not clear who is making that assertion — Mr Shapiro or Ms Zeituni. But the judge rejected Ms Zeituni’s claims that she had previously been persecuted in Kenya.

The judge noted Ms Zeituni’s acknowledgment that none of her many relatives in Kenya had suffered any harm.