BOSTON — President Barack Obama’s father was forced to leave Harvard University before completing his Ph.D. in economics because the school was concerned about his personal life and finances, according to newly public immigration records.
Harvard had asked the Immigration and Naturaliza
tion Service to delay a request by Barack Hussein Obama Sr. to extend his stay in the U.S., “until they decided what action they could take in order to get rid of him,” immigration official M.F. McKeon wrote in a June 1964 memo.
Harvard administrators, the memo stated, “were having difficulty with his financial arrangements and couldn’t seem to figure out how many wives he had.”
An earlier INS memo from McKeon said that while the elder Obama had passed his exams and was entitled on academic grounds to stay and complete his thesis, the school was going to try and “cook something up to ease him out.”
“They are planning on telling him that they will not give him any money, and that he had better return to Kenya and prepare his thesis at home,” the memo stated.
In May 1964, David D. Henry, director of Harvard’s international office, wrote to Obama to say that, while he had completed his formal course work, the economics department and the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences didn’t have the money to support him.
“We have, therefore, come to the conclusion that you should terminate your stay in the United States and return to Kenya to carry on your research and the writing of your thesis,” Henry’s letter stated.
Obama’s request for an extended stay was denied by the INS. He left Harvard and — divorced from the president’s mother — returned to his native Kenya in July 1964. He did not complete his Ph.D.
The immigration memos, contained in the elder Obama’s Immigration and Naturalization file, were given to a Boston Globe reporter in 2009 through a Freedom of Information request. The papers were first made public Wednesday by The Arizona Independent, a weekly newspaper. The Associated Press obtained copies of them on Friday.
Harvard issued a statement Friday saying that it could not find in its own records anything to support the accounts given in the INS memos.
“While we cannot verify accounts of conversations that occurred nearly 50 years ago, a review of our existing files did not find any support for either the language or the implied intent described by the U.S. government official in the government documents,” the statement read.
When Obama was attending Harvard, the school faced serious constraints in financing research by international graduate students, the university also said.
Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler declined to comment Friday, saying the department does not comment on specific immigration cases.
Concerns about Obama’s personal life while he had been studying in the U.S. had been raised previously, according to the INS documents.
In 1961, while he was an undergraduate student at the University of Hawaii, the school’s foreign student adviser called an immigration official and said Obama had recently married Stanley Ann Dunham — the president’s mother — despite already having a wife in Kenya.
According to a memo written by an INS official in Honolulu, the adviser said Obama had been “running around with several girls since he first arrived here and last summer she cautioned him about his playboy ways.”
Obama told the adviser that he had divorced his wife in Kenya. He told the president’s mother the same thing, though she would later learn it was a lie.
Obama worked for an oil company and as a government economist after returning to Africa, but his personal and professional life would later deteriorate. He died in a car crash in 1982, when the future president was 21 and a student at Columbia University.