Obama's Undocumented Aunt: A Reflection of the Nation's Immigration Reality
By Suman Raghunathan, Feet In 2 Worlds consultant
The Associated Press broke the story Friday that presidential candidate Barack Obama has a half-aunt, Zeituni Onyango, who, after her request for political asylum was rejected, is now undocumented and living in Boston.
The range of immigration statuses within Obama’s extended family reflects the reality of many immigrant families in the United States. Both Obama and his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, are US citizens; Soetoro-Ng is married to a Canadian citizen. And like many immigrants, Obama has a large extended family still living in Kenya, his father’s homeland.
Today, mixed-status families are extraordinarily common. For example, according to the Urban Institute, there are at least 5 million children in the country with at least one immigrant parent. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 3 million of these children have at least one parent who is undocumented.
During nearly two decades of historic migration to the US, in a period of extended economic growth powered in large part by immigrant labor, the number of Americans born to immigrant parents has risen steadily. The changes to the nation’s demographic make-up are dramatic. According to Pew, more than half or the growth in the US population in the last decade alone came from Latino communities, much of it due to recent immigrants and their children.