President Obama's uncle held by US immigration
Published 30/08/2011 | 08:15
President Barack Obama's uncle was stopped on suspicion of drink driving, told police he planned to arrange bail through the White House and is being held on an immigration alert.
Onyango Obama, 67, was arrested last week in Framingham, about 20 miles west of Boston, Massachusetts, after police said he made a rolling stop and nearly caused one of their cruisers to strike his sport utility vehicle.
Police said that after being booked at the police station, Obama was asked whether he wanted to make a telephone call to arrange for bail.
"I think I will call the White House," he stated, according to a police report filed in Framingham District Court.
Police said Obama, originally from Kenya and the half-brother of the president's late father, pleaded not guilty on Friday and was being held without bail on a detainer from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In a court document, ICE said he had an earlier deportation or removal order.
His immigration status could not immediately be confirmed, but such orders are generally reserved for people living in the country illegally.
An immigration detainer, used by ICE to identify people in jail or prison who could be deported, is a request to another law enforcement agency to notify ICE before releasing the person so ICE can arrange to take over custody.
A spokesman for ICE declined to comment on Obama's immigration case, and the White House had no comment.
The president refers in his memoir Dreams From My Father, about retracing his roots and his 1988 trip to Kenya, to an Uncle Omar, who matches Onyango Obama's background and has the same date of birth.
Onyango Obama was charged with operating under the influence of alcohol, negligent operation of a motor vehicle and failure to yield the right of way.
Michael Rogers, a spokesman for Cleveland immigration lawyer Margaret Wong, said Ms Wong would represent Obama. He confirmed Obama was the half-brother of the president's father and the brother of another relative, the president's aunt Zeituni Onyango, of Boston.
Ms Onyango made headlines last year when she won the right to stay in the United States after an earlier deportation order. She came to the US from Kenya in 2000 and was denied asylum by an immigration judge in 2004.
She stayed in the country illegally and was granted asylum last year by a judge who found she could be a target in Kenya not only for those who oppose the US and the president but also for members of the Kenyan government.
In Dreams From My Father, the president mentions photographs of his Uncle Omar, "the uncle who had left for America twenty-five years ago and had never come back". He also discusses a Kenyan expression about getting lost, meaning to not see someone in a while or to move away and stop communicating with relatives - "like our Uncle Omar, in Boston".
Framingham police said Obama was arrested after he failed to stop completely at a stop sign and a police officer had to quickly apply his brakes to avoid hitting Obama's sport utility vehicle.
Officer Val Krishtal said in a written report that Obama slurred his speech and became argumentative after he was told why he was being stopped.
"I explained to him that I narrowly avoided striking his vehicle, and he told me that he did not hear my tyres screeching so I was not being accurate," Officer Krishtal said in the report.
Obama originally told Krishtal he had nothing to drink but later said he had had two beers, Officer Krishtal wrote.
Officer Krishtal said Obama failed several sobriety tests and blew a reading of 0.14% on a blood-alcohol breath test, which is above the state's legal driving limit of 0.08%.
The president's administration announced this month that it would allow many illegal immigrants facing deportation the chance to stay in the US and apply for work permits and would focus on removing convicted criminals and people who might be national security or public safety threats.
Independent News Service