President Obama’s uncle ordered to face deportation hearing Dec. 3 by immigration judge

Boston-01/30/13- Onyango Obama leaves the JFK federal building after his arraignment on immigration charges. Globe staff photo by John Tlumacki (metro)
Obama leaving the John F. Kennedy Federal Building after the hearingCredit: John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

A Boston judge today set a Dec. 3 deportation hearing for President Obama’s uncle, Onyango Obama, to determine whether he should be forced to return to his native Kenya.

Immigration Judge Leonard I. Shapiro set the date during a brief hearing in a Boston immigration court. Obama joined a crowd of more than 30 immigrants from Pakistan, Guatemala, and Uganda who were facing hearings.

After Shapiro’s ruling, Obama’s attorney, Scott Bratton, told reporters that his client’s long-term goal is to remain in the United States.

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“Everybody wants to stay in America,’’ said Bratton. “Hopefully, on Dec. 3, the case will be over.’’

Despite a deportation order issued against him 21 years ago, Obama, a 68-year-old liquor store manager, stayed in Massachusetts, living and working undetected until Framingham police arrested him in August 2011 on drunken driving charges. He later admitted to sufficient facts in the case and was sentenced to a year’s probation that ends in March.

In November, the Board of Immigration Appeals granted him a new hearing based in part on his claim that his prior lawyer, now dead, was ineffective. His lawyers have also pointed out that he has lived in the United States for most of his life, since he arrived almost 50 years ago as a young man to attend an elite boys’ school in Cambridge.

Judge Shapiro, a Republican appointee, is a veteran immigration judge who also handled the deportation case of the president’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango. He granted her asylum in 2010 based in part on the exposure of her case to the media.

Onyango, a former computer programmer from Kenya, had been living illegally in the United States in Boston public housing when her status was leaked to the media just before President Obama became the first black president in 2008.

The uncle’s hearing comes one day after President Obama called for a path to US citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, as long as they don’t have serious criminal records. The president was not close to his father’s side of the family. His father died in a car accident in Kenya in 1982.

Critics have said that Onyango Obama, who is the president’s father’s half-brother, appears to be getting special treatment. He was released from immigration detention quickly after his arrest, despite the outstanding deportation order, and then secured a federal work permit and a state hardship driver’s license, since his own was temporarily revoked, so that he could return to work at a liquor store.

After his arrest, Framingham police said, Obama told them: “I think I will call the White House.”

Obama’s immigration history is unclear because immigration court files are closed to the public. According to the earlier judges’ decisions obtained by the Globe, an immigration judge first ordered him deported in October 1986 because he had no legal basis to stay and no connection to the United States such as US-born children.

Obama came to America at age 17, in October 1963, to enroll in a Cambridge boys’ school. Federal records show he was supposed to have left the United States by Dec. 24, 1970.

Instead, Obama worked from 1973 to September 1984, when immigration officials found him, according to the court’s decision. In 1989, the judge again ordered him deported, and three years later, in 1992, the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed his appeal, noting that his lawyer had “in no meaningful way identified the basis of the appeal from the decision of the immigration judge.”

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