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Obama's aunt gets reprieve in asylum case

  • Story Highlights
  • Judge: President Obama's aunt can stay in U.S. until asylum case is heard in 2010
  • Zeituni Onyango has lived in U.S. illegally for years, been ordered to leave country
  • Obama says aunt's case "should run its ordinary course"
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From Deborah Feyerick
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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- A federal immigration judge says President Obama's aunt, who has stayed in the United States illegally for years, will be allowed to remain in the country until at least next year.

Judge Leonard Shapiro said Wednesday he would hear Zeituni Onyango's political asylum case on February 4, 2010.

Onyango, who is the half sister of the president's late father, applied for political asylum in 2002 due to violence in her native Kenya, according to her spokesman, Mike Rogers. Onyango was a legal resident of the United States at the time and had received a Social Security card a year earlier.

Onyango's asylum request was turned down in 2004, and she has been living in the U.S. illegally since then, after twice appealing and twice being ordered to leave.

Wednesday's hearing at the U.S. Immigration Court in Boston was closed to the media at the request of Margaret Wong, Onyango's attorney. Lawyers for the Department of Homeland Security are defending an order to deport Onyango.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt says President Obama is staying out of the matter and that "the president believes that the case should run its ordinary course."

When the initial appearance was over, Onyango, wearing a red wig and dark glasses, was escorted through a side door of the courthouse to avoid news cameras staking out the main entrances.

Onyango lives in public housing in South Boston and volunteers as a health advocate for people in her housing complex. She reportedly attended inauguration events for her nephew in January accompanied by her lawyer.

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