Obama unaware aunt living illegally in US: Report (Lead)

November 2nd, 2008 - 12:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Nov 2 (DPA) The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has said he was not aware that his Kenyan aunt was reportedly living in the US illegally, the Washington Post reported Sunday.The news about Zeituni Onyango, who is referred to as aunty Zeituni in Obama’s memoir, surfaced just as the presidential candidates start counting down hours, not days, to Tuesday’s election.

Some Democrats have alluded to the fact that the timing of the disclosure seems politically motivated, as it was apparently leaked to a media outlet by a government official. Obama’s Republican rival John McCain did not raise the issue on the campaign trail Saturday.

Obama’s campaign said the Illinois senator had no knowledge of her immigration status and that “any and all appropriate laws” should be followed, the report said.

“They’ve talked from time to time. She’s been in and out of his life. He didn’t even know she was in the country,” Obama’s spokesman Bill Burton told broadcaster MSNBC.

Onyango, 56, is Obama’s father’s half-sister. The senator, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, first met his aunt when he travelled to Africa as an adult.

She had apparently applied for political asylum in 2004. Her request was rejected by a federal immigration judge and she was told to leave the country, a government official told the Post.

She attended his swearing-in ceremony as US senator in January 2005, but his campaign said he did not aid in her visa or stay.

Spokesman Burton said Obama had invited her to the US about nine years back to meet the family. Obama last heard from her in 2006, when she said she was in Boston, the campaign said.

“People are suspicious about stories that surface in the last 72 hours of a national campaign, and I think they’re going to put it in that context,” said Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod.

According to Federal Election Commission records, one Zeituni Onyango from South Boston is listed as making contributions worth $265 to the Obama campaign, the Post reported.

The campaign said the money would be refunded. It is illegal for foreign citizens or immigrants without green cards to make political donations.

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