Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Obama's Aunt Zeituni

Aunt Zeituni: 'The System Took Advantage Of Me'

President Obama's Aunt Speaks Exclusively With WBZ-TV

"If I come as an immigrant, you have the obligation to make me a citizen." Those are the words from 58-year-old Zeituni Onyango of Kenya in a recent exclusive interview with WBZ-TV.

Onyango is the aunt of President Barack Obama. She lived in the United States illegally for years, receiving public assistance in Boston.

Aunt Zeituni, as she has come to be known, first surfaced in the public light in 2008, in the final days of the Presidential election. Then-candidate Obama said that he was not against the possible deportation of his aunt. "If she has violated laws, then those laws have to be obeyed," he told CBS's Katie Couric. "We are a nation of laws."

Onyango had violated the law, and she knew it.

"I knew I had overstayed" she told WBZ-TV's Jonathan Elias when the two sat down one-on-one.


Zeituni Onyango said she came to the United States in 2000 and had every intention of leaving. Then, however, she says she got deathly ill and was hospitalized. When she recovered, she said she was broke and couldn't afford to leave.

For two years Onyango said she lived in a homeless shelter, before she was assigned public housing despite thousands of legal residents also awaiting assistance. "I didn't take any advantage of the system. The system took advantage of me."

"I didn't ask for it; they gave it to me. Ask your system. I didn't create it or vote for it. Go and ask your system," she said unapologetically.

And she's right. The system provided her assistance despite her status as an illegal immigrant.


In 2004 a judge ordered Zeituni Onyango out of the country, but she never left. She stayed, hiding in plain sight. In 2005 she attended her nephew's swearing in as the junior Senator of Illinois. In 2008 she was invited to, and traveled to D.C. for President Obama's inauguration.

However her nephew, she says, never pulled any strings for her.

"Listen. Obama did not know my whereabouts."


Onyango hired a top immigration lawyer from Cleveland to help fight her case. We asked how she afforded that lawyer, when she claimed poverty.

"When you believe in Jesus Christ and almighty God, my help comes from heaven," she responded.


When asked about cutting in line ahead of those who have paid into the system she answered plainly, "I don't mind. You can take that house. I will be on the street with the homeless."

"To me America's dream became America's worst nightmare," she said adamantly. "I have been treated like public enemy number one."


She is still living in South Boston public housing, unemployed, and collecting about $700 a month in disability, she says. And now, Zeituni Onlyango is in this country legally.

In May 2010, Onyango's case went back before the same judge who ordered her out of the country in 2004. This time she was granted asylum in the United States. The ruling said a return to Kenya might put Onyango in danger.

Did her nephew, the President of the United States influence that immigration judge? "No influence at all, from nobody, from nowhere," Onyango said.

Watch the second part of Jonathan Elias's exclusive interview with Zeituni Onyango Tuesday night at 11 p.m., on WBZ-TV.

Aunt Zeituni: 'Country Is Owned By Almighty God'

President Obama's Aunt Speaks Exclusively With WBZ-TV

"President Obama, I'm his aunt, I'm the only person on earth allowed to pinch his ears and smack him. Not his father; not his mother; not his wife or brother - he'll fight with him. But Auntie is a much honored person in African culture." 
This may be the case in Africa, but in the United States the President's Aunt Zeituni Onyango hasn't been revered, but reviled by many.  

For years she lived illegally in Boston public housing. She's unemployed, receiving nearly $700 a month in disability, and for nearly ten years was in this country illegally.


Onyango sat down recently with WBZ-TV's Jonathan Elias, to set her side of the record straight.

"I'm not the President's obligation. I carry my own cross."   

That's the problem; she hasn't been carrying her own cross. The taxpayers have, and many are angry that she has been able to live on public assistance for so long, while others who paid into the system are denied those same benefits.  

"It's a great country," she said. "It's nice to live here. You can do whatever you want when you live here."

Despite what's she's been given, Zeituni Onyango said flatly that she owes this country nothing in return. "But, it's given you so much?" Elias asked. "So? It's a free country under God," was her terse response.


The President's aunt arrived in Boston in 2000. When her visa expired she said she was too sick to leave. She stayed in a homeless shelter for two years, and was then assigned public housing, all along, violating the law.

"I knew I had overstayed," she admitted.

In 2004, Zeituni Onyango was ordered out of the country, but never left. After her nephew became President, the same judge that once ordered her deported changed his mind. In May 2010 she was granted asylum.

One of the reasons the judge cited for the change is Onyango's relationship to Obama. He ruled that connection would make her a target in Kenya, writing, "she faces at least a 10 percent chance of future persecution in Kenya."


When asked why the taxpayers should be burdened with her needs, the feisty Zeituni said, "This country is owned by almighty God. You people who preach Jesus Christ almighty God and the rest of it, you are here to help people, help the poor, help other countries and help women.  That's what the United States is supposed to do? And you have to give me my right light, every person's right."

"Do you want to become an American citizen?" Elias asked.

"If I didn't why the hell would I have been here all this time?" she responded.


Onyango said her relationship with her nephew is close, but that she has not been invited to D.C.

"I don't have any business in Washington D.C., in White House. Jesus, don't I have other things to do?"

She said President Obama has not helped in her fight to gain asylum, nor has he helped financially, to get her off public assistance.

The fact is, Zeituni Onyango now has the legal right to stay and she continues living in Boston public housing, and getting her monthly disability checks.


Many in Boston have expressed anger that the President's aunt has been living off a system that she never paid for, and was never entitled to. To this day, she does not understand that anger, nor does she think anything she has received is unfair.

"That's God's miracles," she said. "Don't you believe in miracles?"

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