By: O'Ryan Johnson, Erin Smith
President Obama’s formerly illegal Kenyan uncle didn’t miss an opportunity to drop his famous nephew’s name in front of a federal immigration judge yesterday — and walked away with permanent legal residency — but one prominent immigration lawyer said the White House ties shouldn’t and probably didn’t matter.
Onyango “Uncle Omar” Obama, seeking to overturn a decades-old deportation order, told Immigration Judge Leonard I. Shapiro he has a sister and two nieces in the United States, then added, “I do have a nephew.” Asked to name the nephew, he said, “Barack Obama. ... He’s the president of the United States.”
It wasn’t the first time he’s touted his connection before the law. After his 2011 drunken driving arrest, Framingham cops said Obama told them, “I think I will call the White House.”
Yesterday, Obama claimed the future president had stayed with him in Somerville during his time at Harvard Law School.
“So the president of the United States probably knows and remembers a lot of these people who came to your house, as strong African-Americans,” said Obama’s lawyer, Margaret Wong.
“That’s correct,” Obama said, as his sister, “Aunti” Zeituni Onyango, in a fur coat, looked on from the gallery.
The focus on the president raised one immigration lawyer’s eyebrows.
“It shouldn’t be relative whatsoever. The whole premise of our immigration system is you don’t get special treatment based on who you know or who you’re related to,” said Marisa DeFranco, an immigration lawyer not involved in the case and a Democratic candidate in the 6th Congressional District. “I’m sure it didn’t hurt that he’s Obama’s uncle, but you can’t read bias into a judge’s decision.”
In ruling for Onyango Obama, Shapiro cited a law that entitles immigrants who are “out of status” to become permanent residents if they arrived in the United States before 1972, maintained continuous residence and are of good moral character.