President Obama’s Kenya-born Aunt Zeituni Onyango, 61, died from cancer and respiratory ailments April 8 at the Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation Harborlights facility in South Boston, according to news reports.
She was the half-sister of President Obama’s father.
Onyango was granted U.S. asylum by a federal judge in 2010, after living illegally in Boston. Her immigration status was reported by the Associated Press during the first Obama presidential campaign. She died before she was granted citizenship.
According to CBS News, her death was confirmed by Cleveland lawyer Margaret Wong, who represented Onyango in her immigration case.
According to the Boston Globe Onyango entered the U.S. on a visa in 2000 and sought political asylum in 2002. She was ordered to leave the country in 2003, but she stayed while she appealed the immigration decision. The appeal failed, leading to a deportation order in October 2004.
Onyango stayed temporarily with friends in Cleveland after her case drew media attention in 2008. Obama wrote about her in his book Dreams From My Father, noting that she was a key source of knowledge about his family in Kenya. She attended his inauguration in 2009 but, according to the New York Times, had no contact with the president during her immigration proceedings.
“After her vilification by the press during the President’s campaign, she fought hard for her legal status. She loved to travel, mostly by train, and enjoyed taking pictures everywhere she went,” Wong said in a statement quoted by USA Today.
Her lawyers successfully argued to reopen her case, and she was granted asylum in 2010.
In 2012, Onyango published a memoir titled “Tears of Abuse,” comparing the Obama clan to “the Baobab tree; the strength lies in its roots.”