Obama had “no knowledge” his aunt was in US illegally

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The Democratic party candidate for President of the United States has moved to distance himself from a relative who has been living in the country illegally.

Zeituni Onyango is the half-sister of Mr Obama’s late father.

She had an appeal for asylum rejected four years ago and was instructed to leave the United States but has remained in Boston.

A spokesperson for Obama said he “has no knowledge of her status but obviously believes that any and all appropriate laws should be followed.”

The campaign also said they would be returning donations made by Ms Onyango made totalling $265.

Donations from foreign nationals to candidates are illegal.

The revelation comes three days before the election, which opinion polls indicate the Democrat will win.

David Axelrod, Obama’s campaign chief, said today:

“I think people are suspicious about stories that surface in the last 72 hours of a national campaign.

“And I think that they’re going to take that – they’re going to put it in that context.”

Republican Presidential candidate John McCain has yet to comment on the story.

Senator Obama mentioned Ms Onyango in his memior Dreams From My Father, when he visited Kenya as a youth.

“A tall, brown-skinned woman was smiling beside us, and Auma turned and said, ‘Barack, this is Auntie Zeituni. Our father’s sister,'” the candidate wrote.

“‘Welcome home,’ Zeituni said, kissing me on both cheeks.”

The revelation that she has been living illegally brings to light Obama’s large extended family.

He only met his Kenyan father again once after he left when Obama was two, and barely knows most of his paternal relatives.

He recently broke off from his campaign to visit his ailing white grandmother in Hawaii, which was heavily covered in the press.

His father, who fathered seven children in Kenya, died in a car accident in 1982.

Immigration has not been an issue in this election but Obama supporters fear the story will be used to paint him as related to illegal immigrants.

Americans will vote for the next President on Tuesday.

Human Rights Campaign, America’s most prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans rights organisation, has endorsed Obama.

Its president, Joe Solomonese, said in June:

“I’ve been consistently impressed by Senator Obama’s willingness to speak about GLBT issues in front of diverse audiences.

“Matters of life and livelihood for GLBT Americans are on the line in this election and after eight years of an anti-gay stranglehold on the Presidency, Senator Obama’s message of fairness and acceptance is a breath of fresh air.”

Senator Obama said he was “proud” of the endorsement.

“Too often, the issue of GLBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us,” he said.

“But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans.

“I look forward to working with HRC to end discrimination against GLBT Americans and to ensure that all of our citizens are treated with dignity and respect.”

Senator Obama is on record as supporting federal benefits and protections for same-sex couples, a fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and hate crimes legislation, comprehensive sex education, the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and increased funding for HIV/AIDS.

He supports civil unions but not gay marriage.

HRC’s political action committee has attacked the record of his Republican opponent in the November election.

They released a report entitled Senator John McCain: A Record of Opposing the Interests of GLBT Americans.

“As the general election nears, Senator John McCain will tout his reputation as a maverick, an independent and a moderate,” HRC said.

“But a review of Senator McCain’s record paints a different picture.”

The full report and a summary can be viewed online here.

“We’ve witnessed President Bush over the last seven years repeatedly side with ultra-conservatives and the religious right at the expense of protections for GLBT Americans,” said Human Rights Campaign vice president David Smith.

“Judging by his record, a McCain presidency would be another four years of more of the same.

“Similar to Bush, Senator McCain opposes equal benefits for same-sex couples; opposes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination against GLBT Americans in the workplace; opposes expanding the hate crimes act to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and supports the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.”