Recently, the issue of immigration reform hit particularly close to home for President Barack Obama. His uncle, Kenyan-born Onyango Okech Obama, was on the cusp of being deported from the Unites States after living in the country without documentation since 1970. But on Tuesday, Dec. 3, a Boston federal court judge ruled that he should be allowed to stay in the country.
Why Onyango was allowed to stay
Onyango, who is the half brother of the president’s father, first came to the U.S. in 1963 on a student visa. That visa expired in 1970, and since it wasn’t renewed, Onyango has been living in the country ever since. Most recently, he has been working as a grocery store manager in Framingham, Mass.
However, there is a specific provision in U.S. immigration law that allows immigrants who have been living in the country since before 1972, and who have exhibited “good moral character,” to apply for a green card. Judge Leonard Shapiro, who presided over the case, cited that provision in his ruling, adding that Onyango had paid his taxes and been a good neighbor in his time in the U.S.
David Leopold, an immigration lawyer based in Cleveland, told the Los Angeles Times that the judge had ruled properly under the law, pointing out that Onyango’s relationship to the president had nothing to do with the decision, saying, “The law is so clear-cut that it wouldn’t matter who he is related to. All you have to do is behave yourself and have been here since 1972.”
While this case ended with a positive result, it further serves to highlight the difficulties many undocumented immigrants face every day. Fortunately for Onyango, his case fell under a statute that virtually guaranteed he’d be able to stay in the country.