04/08/2014 04:54 pm ET

Zeituni Onyango Dead: Obama's Aunt Dies At Age 61


Zeituni Onyango, the aunt of President Barack Obama who fought deportation after it was revealed she was undocumented, has died, according to the Boston Herald, CBS Boston and WCVB.

Margaret Wong, Onyango's immigration lawyer, said the 61-year-old passed away at a rehabilitation hospital after a battle with cancer and respiratory ailments. She had been ill since January, according to CBS Boston.

“She’s been ill for quite some time. She didn’t like people to know, because she is so strong,” Wong said, according to the Herald. “I don’t think she accepted she was dying. She just kept thinking she needs to go on.”

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement official tipped off a reporter that Onyango was undocumented four days before the 2008 election. According to an internal report obtained by The Huffington Post, the official gave leaked the information because it was “interesting,” “newsworthy” and because “the American public [had] a right to know."

HuffPost's Ryan J. Reilly and Elise Foley reported in Sept. 2013:

The leak ultimately led to Obama's aunt being allowed to remain in the country. A Republican-nominated immigration judge called the leak “reckless” and granted Onyango asylum in 2010. Obama mostly stayed out of the controversy, but conservatives quickly expressed outrage, particularly after it was revealed that Onyango lived in state-subsidized public housing and had donated to her nephew's campaign. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said the decision to grant her asylum may have been due to "favoritism" simply because she was the president's aunt.

In December 2009, Onyango told the Associated Press she was troubled over being a political liability to Obama.



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