When I had heard that Senator Obama's aunt - the one mentioned in one of his books - was living in public housing in South Boston, I was neither particularly surprised, nor particularly interested. After all, I'm hardly unaware in the difference between the man's rhetoric and his actions in other fields; besides, for all I knew the woman was adamantly refusing help. Relatives can do that, particularly ones from Massachusetts; something in the very ground there makes a person stubborn (I speak from vast personal experience). In other words, I assumed that there was probably a reason why she was there, living quietly, instead of being on the campaign trail helping out her nephew.
Turns out that there was.
By EILEEN SULLIVAN and ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON – Barack Obama's aunt, a Kenyan woman who has been quietly living in public housing in Boston, is in the United States illegally after an immigration judge rejected her request for asylum four years ago, The Associated Press has learned.
Zeituni Onyango, 56, referred to as "Aunti Zeituni" in Obama's memoir, was instructed to leave the United States by a U.S. immigration judge who denied her asylum request, a person familiar with the matter told the AP late Friday. This person spoke on condition of anonymity because no one was authorized to discuss Onyango's case.
Information about the deportation case was disclosed and confirmed by two separate sources, one of them a federal law enforcement official. The information they made available is known to officials in the federal government, but the AP could not establish whether anyone at a political level in the Bush administration or in the McCain campaign had been involved in its release.
It was not immediately clear how Onyango might have qualified for public housing with a standing deportation order. Translation of that last bit: the AP rather badly wanted to find a Republican that they could pin this leak on, but couldn't. According to the article, in fact, the Bush administration has ordered that until the election is over all deportation orders in the country need to be reviewed by ICE's regional directors, which I'm going to assert is because the administration wanted to avoid the scene of throwing out Senator Obama's aunt just before the election. And before you sneer at the President for making that call, ask yourself: what decision could he have made that would have made you not sneer? - because whatever it is, and however many of your colleagues would agree with you, there's an equal number of people out there who won't.
But that's not really the issue. The issue is that now three questions have to be asked. They absolutely have to be - and this is being written by a person who is decidedly to the left on the issue of immigration reform.
The first question is: Senator Obama, for how long have you known that your aunt was living here illegally?
The second question is: Senator Obama, have you, or your staff, or your associates, or anyone acting on your behalf, used your influence to assist Ms. Onyango?
The third question will depend on the answer to the first one. If he says that he knew all along, it's: Senator Obama, why did you keep it a secret? If he says that this was as much a surprise to him as anyone else, it's: Senator Obama, how could you have failed to discover this situation while you were preparing for running for President?
I'll expect that he'll not want to answer these questions - and that many in the media don't want to ask them. But he needs to answer the questions; he's a Democratic US Senator, and it would have been trivially easy for him to use his influence to quash a deportation order. So we need to know whether or not he did. And the media has to ask those questions, because doing so is their blessed job, and judging from circulation numbers lately the American people aren't particularly impressed by the way that the media's been doing it. So we need them to do their job for a change.
So let's have at it.
PS: Unless your name is Senator Barack Obama, I could care less about your perfectly reasonable explanation for what happened. I want his - and let him come out and face this one himself, for a change. His press flacks lie and wriggle too much.