President Obama's aunt, a Kenyan immigrant who ignited controversy last year for living in the United States illegally, has returned to her quiet apartment in a Boston public housing complex to prepare for an April 1 deportation hearing.
When her case emerged in the waning days of the presidential race last year, Zeituni Onyango, a tall, frail-looking woman in her late 50s who walks with a cane, fled the media attention to stay with relatives in Cleveland.
She attended Obama's inauguration in January and, according to neighbors, returned to Boston a few weeks ago for her third attempt to fight removal from the United States. She had been living in the country illegally since she was ordered deported in 2004.
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Onyango's fate will play out behind closed doors before veteran immigration Judge Leonard Shapiro in Boston. Onyango's lawyer Margaret Wong of Ohio successfully argued to reopen her case in December and have the proceedings closed to the public, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts.
Based on this and previous Boston Globe reporting, Aunt Zeituni has been living illegally in the U.S. for about ten years. In 2001, she fraudulently obtained a U.S. Social Security card. In 2002, she applied for asylum and was denied, appealed the denial, and lost. In 2004, she was ordered deported, but she ignored the order and stayed in her South Boston apartment. The immigration authorities ignored her in return, it seems, since, although she made no secret of her whereabouts after 2004, no immigration agent ever served a Habius Grabus on her. Although technically a fugitive, she has been living openly, applying for and receiving public assistance, donating money to Obama's campaign in 2008, and even attending an inaugural ball when Obama was sworn in. She was granted a stay of the long-ignored deportation order last December (not that anyone in the USG was going to slap handcuffs on her after she became our KAOPOTUS but, hey, just in case) and was given a leisurely eighteen months in which to prepare for yet another asylum hearing.
Appropriately enough, her next hearing is scheduled for April Fools Day. If an immigration judge rewards her decade of law-breaking with a grant of asylum, I don't know who will be the bigger fools: the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or the millions of immigrants who went to the trouble of complying with U.S. laws over the past ten years.