November 1, 2008 / 6:21 PM / 11 years ago

Obama unaware of aunt's immigration status: campaign

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks during an election rally in Henderson, Nevada , November 1, 2008. REUTERS/Jason Reed

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama knows nothing about the status of a Kenyan relative reported to be living in the United States illegally but believes “all appropriate laws should be followed,” his campaign said on Saturday.

The Obama campaign responded to an Associated Press report that Obama’s aunt had been ordered to leave the country four years ago by an immigration judge who rejected her request for asylum from her native Kenya.

Zeituni Onyango, 56, who Obama calls “Auntie Zeituni” in one of his memoirs, has been living quietly in a public housing complex in Boston and is the half-sister of Obama’s late father.

“Sen. Obama has no knowledge of her status but obviously believes that any and all appropriate laws should be followed,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The campaign questioned the timing of the disclosure just three days before the election.

“I think people are suspicious about stories that surface in the last 72 hours of a national campaign,” David Axelrod, Obama’s chief media strategist told reporters. “And I think they’re ... going to put it in that context.”

The Associated Press attributed its story to two unnamed sources, one a federal law enforcement official, but said it could not establish whether anyone at a political level in the Bush administration or the McCain campaign had been involved in its release.

It said Onyango’s failure to leave the country would be an administrative, non-criminal violation of immigration law. Such cases are handled outside the criminal court system.

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