WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama lived briefly with his Kenyan-born uncle while attending law school, the White House said on Thursday, reversing earlier statements that there was no record of the two men ever having met.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said he clarified the issue with the president directly after reports that Onyango Obama, who faced deportation from the United States, said he had housed his nephew temporarily.
A U.S. immigration judged ruled on Tuesday that the 69-year-old half brother of the president’s late father could stay as a lawful U.S. resident despite decades dodging deportation and a 2011 drunken-driving arrest.
Barack Obama attended Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the late 1980s.
Carney said White House press staff had consulted the president’s book for evidence of a meeting between the two men when the issue came up previously, but no one had posed the question to the commander in chief.
“Nobody had asked him in the past, and the president said that he in fact had met Omar Obama when he moved to Cambridge for law school and that he stayed with him for a brief period of time until his, the president’s, apartment was ready,” Carney told reporters.
“After that, they saw each other once every few months while the president was in Cambridge, and then after law school they gradually fell out of touch.”
Obama had not seen his uncle in 20 years or spoken to him in roughly 10 years, Carney said.
Onyango Obama came to the United States as a teenager in 1963 to attend an elite school near Boston, but allowed his visa status to lapse in 1970. He was denied green-card status in the 1980s and was asked to leave the country. But he did not do so.
The immigration judge said he based his decision to allow him to stay on a federal law granting green cards to foreigners who arrived in the United States before 1972 as long as they were found to be of good moral character.
Carney said there was “absolutely zero interference” from the White House in the president’s uncle’s case.
Additional reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Peter Cooney