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Asylum hearing for Obama aunt ends with no ruling

DENISE LAVOIE

An immigration hearing for President Barack Obama’s African aunt ended last Thursday without an immediate decision in her second bid for asylum in the United States.

Kenya native Zeituni Onyango did not comment after testifying for about 2 1/2 hours last Thursday at the closed proceedings in U.S. Immigration Court.

“The hearing went well. She was very honest. She was very to the point,” her lawyer, Margaret Wong, said afterward.

Wong said Onyango is hopeful the judge will rule in her favor because “she really wants to stay in America.”

Two doctors also testified in support of the case her lawyer said includes medical reasons to stay in the U.S. Wong declined afterward to discuss specifics before a judge’s decision.

The 57-year-old Onyango arrived in a wheelchair last week, a cane across her lap. She used the cane to walk to a waiting car afterward.

In a November interview with the Associated Press, she said she is disabled and learning to walk again after being paralyzed from Guillain-Barre syndrome, an auto-immune disorder.

It was not clear when Judge Leonard Shapiro will rule. Attorneys have 30 days to file written closing briefs. The hearing may be continued on May 25 if there is no decision before then.

At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs said that the first family is not helping pay Onyango’s legal fees and that the president has not spoken to her since he learned of her immigration status just days before the Nov. 2008 elections.

“We would continue to say that everybody in this country should and must follow the law,” Gibbs said. “We have not been involved at all in that hearing.”

Wong also said the president has not become involved in Onyango’s hearing. Asked last  Thursday if Obama had submitted a letter on behalf of his aunt, the attorney replied “absolutely not.”

Onyango, the half-sister of Obama’s late father, moved to the United States in 2000. Her first asylum request was rejected, and she was ordered deported in 2004. But she didn’t leave the country and continued to live in public housing in Boston.

In November, Onyango said she never asked Obama to intervene in her case and didn’t tell him about her immigration difficulties.

“He has nothing to do with my problem,” she told the AP.

In his memoir, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” Obama affectionately referred to Onyango as “Auntie Zeituni” and described meeting her during his 1988 trip to Kenya.

Onyango helped care for the president’s half brothers and sister while living with Barack Obama Sr. in Kenya.

Associated Press