A US immigration judge has ruled that Onyango Obama, President Barack Obama’s Kenyan uncle, can stay in the United States after living in the country illegally since 1970, when his student visa expired.
Onyango Obama, 69, the president’s father’s half-brother, was ordered deported in 1986 and 1989 and lost a deportation appeal in 1992, according to court documents obtained by the Boston Globe.
His deportation order came to light again in 2011 when he was arrested in Framingham, Mass., for drunk driving. New lawyers filed an appeal, claiming that his former attorney had been ineffective.
Judge Leonard Shapiro said he decided to grant Onyango Obama a green card because of a federal law that allows permanent resident status to be given to people who arrived in the US before 1972 if they have good moral character.
In spite of his drunk-driving arrest, Judge Shapiro noted that Onyango Obama had paid taxes, done volunteer work and served as "a good neighbor and a good friend” while living in America.
"He appears to me to be a gentleman, and I'm inclined to grant his application on that basis," Judge Shapiro told the Boston court.
In 2010, Judge Shapiro approved an asylum request from Onyango Obama’s sister, Zeituni Onyango, who claimed political violence in Kenya made it dangerous for her to live there.
"I don't have anymore friends (in Kenya)," Onyango Obama said Tuesday. "I came when I was 17, now I am approaching 70. It would be mentally difficult (to move back). If you are young you can adjust, but at my age it would be difficult. I would have to start all over."