I'm beginning to wonder how many relatives President Obama has in this country illegally. Seriously, have we ever had a president that we know so little about? - Reggie
FRAMINGHAM - The uncle of President Obama arrested here last week on drunken driving and other charges has been a fugitive from deportation since 1992, according to two federal law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case.
Onyango Obama, who is from Kenya and is known as the president's Uncle Omar on his father's side, had lived a quiet life in Massachusetts until last Wednesday, when police said the car he was driving darted in front of a police cruiser, nearly causing the officer to hit his car.
The federal officials, who spoke about Obama's immigration status on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak about the case, said Obama had been told to leave in 1992, but he did not go.
Obama is the second relative of the president to have defied a deportation order, reigniting debate over illegal immigration and raising questions about how a man who had lived in the United States illegally for years had managed to secure a job, a Massachusetts driver's license, and apparently, a federal Social Security number, without being detected by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
"There are hundreds of thousands of people who have been ordered deported and just ran off and nobody's looking for them," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors strict controls on immigration.
Onyango Obama's sister, Zeituni Onyango, also faced deportation before a Boston immigration judge granted her asylum last year. She, too, had avoided the spotlight, living in public housing in South Boston despite a deportation order. Her immigration status was leaked to the media days before her nephew's historic election in 2008.
In contrast, Obama kept to himself in a modest house in Framingham. He worked in a small liquor store on Route 126 where locals stop in for a six-pack of beer, a bottle of wine, or scratch tickets.
"He was a great worker," said Parimal Patel, the owner of Conti Liquors, where Obama worked for the past five years. "We're in total shock. I wish I had known, I would have asked him to call the president and have him come down for some publicity."
Obama last week pleaded not guilty in Framingham District Court to multiple charges, including driving under the influence, failing to yield, and negligent operation, said court documents and the Associated Press. He is being held on an immigration detainer in the Plymouth County House of Correction.