By Laurel J. Sweet | Tuesday, February 2, 2010
The illegal alien aunt of President Obama could learn this week whether she can put down roots in Boston - or start packing her bags for a one-way trip back to Kenya.
And, save for U.S. Immigration Court Judge Leonard I. Shapiro, she'll know before anyone else. Zeituni Polly Onyango has persuaded Shapiro to bar the public from her removal proceeding Thursday morning at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building, though it's unclear why.
"I assume (Shapiro) thought it would be a three-ring circus. She's the aunt of the president of the United States - the most famous man in the world," said Mike Rogers, spokesman for the Ohio law firm defending Onyango, 57, against the Department of Homeland Security.
Shapiro could not be reached for comment. However, Lauren Alder Reid of the U.S. Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review, which speaks for the court, said closed hearings are "not uncommon."
Reid said removal proceedings are sometimes held behind closed doors in cases of political asylum - such as Onyango is requesting - domestic abuse and security.
"The immigration judge will hear the merits of the case from both parties," Reid said yesterday. "The judge may make a ruling from the bench, but there's no guarantee."
Onyango, she said, can call witnesses if she likes.
Neither Reid nor Rogers claimed any knowledge of Obama meddling on behalf of his late father's African half-sister, and Rogers said Onyango isn't trying "to capitalize" on family favortism.
"Everyone knows she's related to him," Rogers said. "It's a no-win situation for him. He can't get involved in this. The law has got to run its course."
Onyango, a computer programmer, has been in the country illegally since 2004, when Shapiro ordered her to leave. Recent attempts to reach her at the South Boston housing development where she's been living since a December 2008 stay of her deportation have been unsuccessful.