Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably know by now that Barack Obama's paternal aunt, Zeituni Onyango, 56, who was affectionately described as “Auntie Zeituni” in his memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” is a Kenyan immigrant living in Boston public housing.
The London Times broke the story on October 30, and both global mainstream media and bloggers followed suit.
Two days later, we learned from the Associated Press that Onyango is living here illegally, which complicates issues considering she contributed $260 to her nephew's presidential campaign.
Cuban blogger Zury echoes the Times’ find and opines:
I don't know about you, but with the millions he made with the book and being that he referred to his aunt, with such affection, you would think, he would share his wealth, like he wants to do with the wealthiest Americans.
“If she is violating laws, those laws have to be obeyed,” Obama told CBS News. “We're a nation of laws. Obviously that doesn't lessen my concern for her. I haven't been able to be in touch with her. But I'm a strong believer that you have to obey the laws.”
Canadian blogger Jonathan Strong, a conservative, is not convinced, questioning recent poll data whether Obama and John McCain aren't closer in American viewpoints, but moreover positing Obama was denying facts to the American people:
It is illegal to accept campaign contributions from those who don't hold a Green Card or are not citizens. Obama's campaign has come under fire for having very loose credit card rules on for online donations. It is suspected that he may have received millions of dollars in illegal donations from overseas and foreigners.
Obama is denying that he knew his aunt was in the US illegally, but such denials from Obama are common place. He denied being close to Rev. Wright, and being in the church congregation when racist statements were made. He denied being friends with Bill Ayers. He denies being close to Rashid Khalidi and Tony Rezko… you get the picture.
Across the pond, Dutch blogger Michael van der Galien of PoliGazette suggests it is unfair to criticize Obama for failing to chastise his aunt:
Although it would be fascinating to hear this womanâ€™s life story, those who go after both her and Obama on this subject are crossing the line of decency and normal political discourse. This aunt is not running for president, Obama is. It is fair to look at how he treats relatives, especially if he bragged about having great relationships with them in his books, but those relatives themselves cannot be touched.
Some readers of conservative blog Ace of Spades argued that Onyangoâ€™s status indicates Obama may have known his aunt was in the country illegally and may even have assisted her. If Obama was running on a strict anti-illegal immigration platform, calling on friends and relatives of illegal immigrants to report those people to immigration officials so they can be deported, Obama could potentially be criticized. But that is not the case. Obama is not pretending to be a hardliner on the issue of immigration.
Furthermore, Onyango is Obamaâ€™s aunt. If Obama knew she was here illegally, and he probably did, does anyone truly suggest he should have reported her to authorities? His own aunt? That is what the Hitler Jugend and youth organizations in the Soviet Union did. But in any normal, humane society, such behavior would be condemned as immoral, unthankful and worse. It would be betrayal of the worst kind: betrayal of oneâ€™s own relatives. It does not get much worse than that. Not in any decent society, at least.
Additionally, since the issue of Onyangoâ€™s status as an illegal alien does not tell us anything about Obama being a hypocrite or worse, the only net effect of making this a big issue is to attack a person who is not running for office. This woman should be considered off limits.
Among other bloggers on the issue, few captured the essence of Kyle from Citizen Orange, a U.S.-based and Guatemala-inspired group blog. Kyle tracked progressive bloggers on both sides of the Auntie Zeituni issue and concluded:
The debate over this story has devolved into one of Republican nativism and Democrats and their allies either describing this as smear or running as far away from this as they can. If having an unauthorized migrant relative is a smear, than smear me too.
After quoting various sources on the matter, including a pro-migrant immigration lawyer who suggests the leak to the AP was a federal law enforcement official, Kyle further theorized:
[W]hile nativists are screaming “ILLEGAL” at the top of their lungs and “progressives” are refusing to defend unauthorized migrants, it appears that everyone's lost sight of who the real “ILLEGAL” is. That “federal law enforcement agent” broke U.S. immigration law. Perhaps the anonymous source should be deported?
…In pointing fingers no one even thought to protect the rights of Obama's aunt as an asylee. This disclosure could possible result in great harm for Obama's aunt, especially as the situation in Kenya has deteriorated.
Malawi blogger Steve Sharra, a visiting professor of philosophy at Michigan State University, intellectualizes Oyango's and Obama's African burden in a long piece of prose you can read on your own.
Extracting pieces from his blog post is the following:
In the documentary Life and Debt about the effects of IMFâ€™s structural adjustment policies on Third World economies, by Stephanie Black, thereâ€™s a contrast made about what it takes for an American to enter Jamaica, and what it takes for a Jamaican to enter the US. For the former, it is a mere driverâ€™s license at the port of entry. For the latter, as with most Third World people around the world, it is a herculean, heart-rending process that stretches for months. Several thousands of visa applications get rejected every single day, each of them having paid the equivalent of a non-refundable US$100. The inside of the embassy itself is a place that reduces one to fear and humiliation, requiring one to prove oneâ€™s humanity before one is considered worthy of entry.
The burden for the kind of change the world is anticipating ought not to be carried by Obama alone, if at all. As Dr. Makau Mutua, Dean and Professor of Law at State University of New York at Buffalo wrote in June 2008, the US presidency is very different from the African presidency, and most other presidencies for that matter. If elected, Obamaâ€™s constituency will be the numerous interest groups who wield influence in US domestic and foreign policy. Obama may personally understand the importance of changing the image of Africa and Africans in the eyes of Americans, but it will have to be a slow, gradual, deliberate process, or else it may merely provoke unintended consequences. And in the meantime, Aunt Zeituni has to accept her place in the hierarchy, follow the law, and return to Kenya.
And Kenya? What does Kenya say?
Failing to find Kenyan bloggers on the issue, the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation comes to the rescue with a report by Zipporah Njeri of the Kenyan News Agency who writes from Nyang'oma Kogelo, the village where Obama's father was born.
Njeri didn't write about Zeituni Onyango but did speak to Barack Obama's paternal grandmother, Sarah Onyango Obama, who continues to live in Kogelo village and follows her grandson's progress overseas. She said:
Obama is God's gift to the world, and many people from various parts of the world have confirmed this to me. If it happens that our son wins, come back here on Wednesday and you will witness the whole village in dancing frenzy!
Before anyone suggests that Sarah might consider emigrating to America, she shook her head to the reporter and exclaimed, “Home is home and remains the best place for a person of my age.”