President Obama’s uncle faces hearing in Boston in fight against deportation

President Obama’s uncle is facing a federal immigration judge today for his first immigration hearing in Boston since he violated a 1992 order to return to his native Kenya.

The hearing is expected to be a brief arraignment before Immigration Judge Leonard I. Shapiro, and it comes almost 21 years to the day that an immigration appeals board gave Onyango Obama 30 days to leave the country or face forcible deportation.

Obama, a 68-year-old liquor store manager, instead stayed in Massachusetts, living and working undetected until Framingham police arrested him in August 2011 on drunk driving charges. He later admitted to sufficient facts in the case and was sentenced to a year’s probation that ends in March.

In November, the Board of Immigration Appeals granted him a new hearing based in part on his claim that his prior lawyer, now dead, was ineffective. His lawyers have also pointed out that he has lived in the United States for most of his life, since he arrived almost 50 years ago as a young man to attend an elite boys’ school in Cambridge.

Scott Bratton, one of Obama’s lawyers at the Margaret Wong law firm in Cleveland, has said Obama hopes to apply for permanent resident status.

Judge Shapiro, a Republican appointee, is a veteran immigration judge who also handled the deportation case of the president’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango. He granted her asylum in 2010 based in part on the exposure of her case to the media.

The former computer programmer from Kenya had been living illegally in the United States in Boston public housing when her status was leaked to the media just before President Obama became the first black president in 2008.

The uncle’s hearing comes one day after President Obama called for a path to UScitizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, as long as they don’t have serious criminal records. The president was not close to his father’s side of the family. His father died in a car accident in Kenya in 1982.

Critics have said that Onyango Obama, who is the president’s father’s half-brother, appears to be getting special treatment. He was relased from immigration detention quickly after his arrest, despite the outstanding deportation order, and then secured a federal work permit and a state hardship driver’s license, since his own was temporarily revoked, so that he could return to work at a liquor store.

After his arrest, Framingham police said, Obama told them: “I think I will call the White House.”

Obama’s immigration history is unclear because immigration court files are closed to the public. According to the earlier judges’ decisions obtained by the Globe, an immigration judge first ordered him deported in October 1986 because he had no legal basis to stay and no connection to the United States such as US-born children.

Onyango Obama came to America at age 17, in October 1963, to enroll in a Cambridge boys’ school. Federal records show he was supposed to have left the United States by Dec. 24, 1970.

Instead, Obama worked from 1973 to September 1984, when immigration officials found him, according to the court’s decision. In 1989, the judge again ordered him deported, and three years later, in 1992, the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed his appeal, noting that his lawyer had “in no meaningful way identified the basis of the appeal from the decision of the immigration judge.”

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