Published December 23, 2015
CLEVELAND -- A U.S. immigration court granted asylum to President Barack Obama's African aunt, allowing her to stay in the country, her attorneys said Monday.
The decision was mailed Friday and comes three months after Kenya native Zeituni Onyango, the half-sister of Obama's late father, testified at a closed hearing in Boston, where she arrived in a wheelchair and two doctors testified in support of her case.
The basis for her asylum request hadn't been made public. People who seek asylum must show that they face persecution in their homeland on the basis of religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group.
Her lawyer, Margaret Wong, said last year that Onyango first applied for asylum "due to violence in Kenya." The East African nation is fractured by cycles of electoral violence every five years.
In a November interview with The Associated Press, Onyango said she was disabled and was learning to walk again after being paralyzed from Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder.
Onyango 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.
Onyango's status as an illegal immigrant was revealed just days before Obama was elected in November 2008. Obama said he did not know his aunt was living here illegally and believes laws covering the situation should be followed.
A judge later agreed to suspend her deportation order and reopen her asylum case.
Wong has said that Obama wasn't involved in the Boston hearing. The White House also said it was not helping Onyango with legal fees.
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.