CLEVELAND - A U.S. immigration court has granted asylum to President Obama's Kenyan aunt, allowing her to stay in the country and setting her on the road to citizenship after years of legal wrangling, her attorneys announced Monday.
The decision was made by a judge in U.S. Immigration Court in Boston and mailed out Friday. It comes three months after Zeituni Onyango, the half-sister of Obama's late father, testified at a closed hearing in Boston.
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.
The basis for Onyango's asylum request was never made public, but her lawyer, Margaret Wong, said last year that Onyango first applied for asylum "due to violence in Kenya."
Medical issues also could have played a role. Onyango said she was disabled and was learning to walk again after being paralyzed from Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder. At her hearing in Boston earlier this year, she arrived in a wheelchair, and two doctors testified in support of her case.
Onyango's efforts to win asylum took more than a decade. "She was ecstatic," Wong said Monday, describing Onyango's reaction to the news.
Wong said the White House was not informed of the ruling. Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro said the White House had no involvement in the case at any point in the process.
A year from now, she will be eligible to apply for a green card; five years later, she can apply to become a citizen.
"There are hundreds and thousands of people like her who really need help to stay here," Wong said.