White House Retracts Claim That Obama Doesn't Know His Nearly Deported Uncle

| by Jonathan Wolfe

The White House confirmed today that President Obama has, in fact, met his Kenyan Uncle Onyango Obama. The admission contradicts a 2011 statement in which the president’s representatives said Onyango Obama had “never met his famous nephew.”

The question of whether President Obama and his uncle had ever met first surfaced several years ago when Onyango was arrested and charged with a DUI. After it was confirmed that the man sharing a last name with the president was indeed his uncle, Boston reporters asked the White House if the President had any sort of personal relationship with Onyango.

Ironically, the President’s uncle was facing deportation charges.

Onyango came to the United States in 1960 but failed to renew his green card after 1972. He paid taxes and avoided any run-ins with the law after his card expired, and by doing so avoided any issues with his illegal status. But after being pulled over and charged with a DUI, he was ordered to appear at a deportation hearing and present his case for being allowed to stay in the country.

His hearings concluded on Tuesday. U.S. Immigration Judge Leonard Shapiro ruled that Onyango would be allowed to stay in the country. His ruling was based on a law applying to immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before 1970.

“Shapiro based his decision on a federal immigration law that allows people who have lived in the United States since prior to 1972 to apply for residency,” Boston Globe writer Maria Sacchetti said.“Onyango Obama, with the help of the president’s late father, came to the U.S. in 1963 from their native Kenya under a student visa, which was renewed before finally expiring in 1970. He has not obtained any other right under U.S. immigration laws since then.”

During the hearing, Judge Shapiro asked Onyango if he had any family in the country.

“I do have a nephew,” he answered. “He is the president of the United States.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters this week that the White House’s previous incorrect claim about the president not knowing his uncle was reported because the president himself was never asked about their relationship. Instead, staffers searched the president’s records and books and, after finding nothing about Onyango, concluded the president did not know him.

After speaking with the president directly, it was confirmed that the President had, in fact, met his uncle. He stayed with him for three weeks as a Harvard student in the late 1980s. He hasn’t spoken to him in years, however.

“The President has not spoken to Onyango Obama in 10 years,” Carney said. “He hasn’t seen him in 20 years.”

A court official said that Onyango received no preferential treatment at his hearing for being the president’s uncle. 

Sources: Washington Post, Boston, USA Today