And so, after six months of being studiously ignored, amnesty makes a last-minute cameo.

The good news for “Aunti”? No matter who wins, her path to citizenship’s assured.

Zeituni Onyango, 56, referred to as “Aunti Zeituni” in Obama’s memoir, was instructed to leave the United States by a U.S. immigration judge who denied her asylum request, a person familiar with the matter told the AP late Friday. This person spoke on condition of anonymity because no one was authorized to discuss Onyango’s case.

Information about the deportation case was disclosed and confirmed by two separate sources, one of them a federal law enforcment official. 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…

Onyango’s case — coming to light just days before the presidential election — led to an unusual nationwide directive within Immigrations and Customs Enforcement requiring any deportations prior to Tuesday’s election to be approved at least at the level of ICE regional directors, the U.S. law enforcement official told the AP.

The unusual directive suggests that the Bush administration is sensitive to the political implications of Onyango’s case coming to light so close to the election.

The boss spent the wee hours of the morning devouring this story so I’ve got nothing left but scraps to pick through. First scrap: The One denies any knowledge of her immigration status, thereby confirming that the guy who famously said, “I am my brother’s keeper,” clearly isn’t his aunt’s. Second scrap: MM’s right, of course, that the same nutroots all-stars who’ve shrugged off politically motivated government snooping into Joe the Plumber’s records will find the feds’ leak here very, very troubling. Expect the inevitable special comment on Monday night’s “Countdown” to be highly nuanced indeed. Third scrap: Yes, Aunti donated illegally to the campaign — in the same small increments that keep so many of Obama’s donors out of FEC reports — and yes, they’re promising to refund the money. Because, you see, if there’s anyone who’s a stickler about accepting illegal donations, it’s Barack Obama.

Fourth and most important scrap: Any political fallout from this? The AP, at least, probably doesn’t think so or else it wouldn’t be dropping a hot potato in his lap 72 hours before the polls open. In better economic circumstances, with an anti-amnesty GOP nominee, this might have driven a little extra turnout. As it is, we’re poised to elect a guy who’s “certainly friendly” with a domestic terrorist. America’s willing to forgive him that, but it’s going to pitch a fit over a lost aunt no one’s heard of? If anything, this might earn The One a little vicarious sympathy: It ain’t for nothing that ICE issued that “unusual directive” making sure no one tries to deport her before the vote, and it won’t help McCain if this is seen as some sort of eleventh-hour dirty trick being played by Bush to try to help him win. Exit quotation: “I think people are suspicious about stories that surface in the last 72 hours of a national campaign.”