Aunt Zeituni: 'The System Took Advantage Of Me'
President Obama's Aunt Speaks Exclusively With WBZ-TV
"If I come as an immigrant, you have the obligation to make me a citizen." Those are the words from 58-year-old Zeituni Onyango of Kenya in a recent exclusive interview with WBZ-TV.
Onyango is the aunt of President Barack Obama. She lived in the United States illegally for years, receiving public assistance in Boston.
'I KNEW I OVERSTAYED'
Aunt Zeituni, as she has come to be known, first surfaced in the public light in 2008, in the final days of the Presidential election. Then-candidate Obama said that he was not against the possible deportation of his aunt. "If she has violated laws, then those laws have to be obeyed," he told CBS's Katie Couric. "We are a nation of laws."
Onyango had violated the law, and she knew it.
"I knew I had overstayed" she told WBZ-TV's Jonathan Elias when the two sat down one-on-one.
ASSIGNED PUBLIC HOUSING
Zeituni Onyango said she came to the United States in 2000 and had every intention of leaving. Then, however, she says she got deathly ill and was hospitalized. When she recovered, she said she was broke and couldn't afford to leave.
For two years Onyango said she lived in a homeless shelter, before she was assigned public housing despite thousands of legal residents also awaiting assistance. "I didn't take any advantage of the system. The system took advantage of me."
"I didn't ask for it; they gave it to me. Ask your system. I didn't create it or vote for it. Go and ask your system," she said unapologetically.
And she's right. The system provided her assistance despite her status as an illegal immigrant.
ORDERED TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY
In 2004 a judge ordered Zeituni Onyango out of the country, but she never left. She stayed, hiding in plain sight. In 2005 she attended her nephew's swearing in as the junior Senator of Illinois. In 2008 she was invited to, and traveled to D.C. for President Obama's inauguration.
However her nephew, she says, never pulled any strings for her.
"Listen. Obama did not know my whereabouts."
'HEAVEN' PAYS HER BILLS
Onyango hired a top immigration lawyer from Cleveland to help fight her case. We asked how she afforded that lawyer, when she claimed poverty.
"When you believe in Jesus Christ and almighty God, my help comes from heaven," she responded.
'PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE'
When asked about cutting in line ahead of those who have paid into the system she answered plainly, "I don't mind. You can take that house. I will be on the street with the homeless."
"To me America's dream became America's worst nightmare," she said adamantly. "I have been treated like public enemy number one."
She is still living in South Boston public housing, unemployed, and collecting about $700 a month in disability, she says. And now, Zeituni Onlyango is in this country legally.
In May 2010, Onyango's case went back before the same judge who ordered her out of the country in 2004. This time she was granted asylum in the United States. The ruling said a return to Kenya might put Onyango in danger.
Did her nephew, the President of the United States influence that immigration judge? "No influence at all, from nobody, from nowhere," Onyango said.