Obama's Aunt Says US Obligated to Make Her Citizen

September 21, 2010 - 7:04 PM

Obama's aunt, Zeituni Onyango

In this Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009 file photo, President Barack Obama's aunt Zeituni Onyango speaks to The Associated Press during an interview in her home in Boston. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds, File)

Boston (AP) - President Barack Obama's aunt, who lived for years illegally in Boston before being granted asylum in May, said the United States has an "obligation" to grant her citizenship.

"If I come as an immigrant, you have the obligation to make me a citizen," Zeituni Onyango told WBZ-TV in an interview that first aired Monday.

Onyango came to the U.S. from Kenya in 2000 and was denied asylum by an immigration judge in 2004. She was granted asylum earlier this year by the same judge who said she could be in danger if she returned to her homeland.

She said she had intended to return to Kenya but fell critically ill and was hospitalized. When she was discharged, she was penniless and lived in a homeless shelter for two years.

She told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview last December that she was paralyzed for more than three months because of an autoimmune disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome and had to learn to walk again.

"To me, America's dream became America's worst nightmare," she told the TV station in her first interview since being granted asylum.

It was after her illness, she said, that she was assigned public housing.

"I didn't ask for it; they gave it to me," she said.

She said she resented being used to attack her nephew, who has never intervened in her immigration case. "Don't drag my child into it," she said.

She said she feels as if she's been treated as "public enemy No. 1" since her residency status went public.

Onyango, the half sister of Obama's late father, still lives in public housing and collects $700 monthly disability. She doesn't work, but said she volunteers time at the Boys and Girls Club and with the Boston Housing Authority.