The judge said he considered testimony about Obama’s character, including letters from people who praised him for being a “kind and decent person,” and considered the drunken-driving charge and allegations of discrepancies in what he told immigration officials 20 to 30 years ago.
“He appears to me to be a gentleman,” the judge said.
Obama testified that President Obama stayed with him for three weeks in Cambridge while the president was a student at Harvard Law School.
“In our tradition, your brother’s kids are your kids as well,” he said after the hearing.
Onyango Obama’s Cleveland-based immigration attorney, Margaret Wong, called him a “wonderful older gentleman.”
“He has earned his privilege to stay in the United States. He has been here for 50 years,” she said.
After the hearing, Obama quickly left the courthouse without speaking. Wong said he didn’t receive any special treatment and was happy with the judge’s decision.
If the government appeals, a notice must be filed within 30 days. Wong said Obama could get U.S. citizenship after five years.
There was no immediate comment Tuesday from the White House, which has said it expected the case to be handled like any other.
In the president’s memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” he writes about his 1988 trip to Kenya and refers to an Uncle Omar, who matches Onyango Obama’s background and has the same date of birth.
Onyango Obama is the second Obama family member to be found living illegally in the United States. His sister, Zeituni Onyango, the president’s aunt, was granted asylum in 2010 after her first asylum request in 2002 was rejected and she was ordered deported in 2004.
Onyango didn’t leave the country and continued to live in public housing in Boston. Her status was revealed just days before Barack Obama was elected in November 2008. At the time, then-candidate Obama said he didn’t know his aunt was living in the U.S. illegally and he believed laws covering the situation should be followed.