Officials at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department have referred the disclosure to the media of the immigration status of Sen. Barack Obama’s Aunt Zeituni Onyango to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General and the office of professional responsibility.
The disclosure may have been a violation of federal privacy laws.
ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel in a statement said, "Yesterday morning, ICE referred the matter to the Inspector General and our Office of professional Responsibility for review. They are looking into whether there was a violation of policy in publicly disclosing individual case information."
Late Friday night, The Associated Press reported that Onyango — whom this week the Times of London and the Boston Globe found living in a Boston housing project — is in the United States illegally.
A person familiar with Onyango’s immigration status told the AP Friday that she "was instructed to leave the United States by a U.S. immigration judge who denied her asylum request… Onyango’s refusal to leave the country would represent an administrative, non-criminal violation of U.S. immigration law, meaning such cases are handled outside the criminal court system. Estimates vary, but many experts believe there are more than 10 million such immigrants in the United States.
"Information about the deportation case was disclosed and confirmed by two separate sources, one of them a federal law enforcement official," the AP reported. "The information they made available is known to officials in the federal government, but the AP could not establish whether anyone at a political level in the Bush administration or in the McCain campaign had been involved in its release."
– Jake Tapper and Jason Ryan