21 Savage was arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement this past Sunday. According to the government agency, the rapper (né Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph) is a UK national who “entered the US legally in July 2005, but subsequently failed to depart under the terms of his nonimmigrant visa.” He’s reportedly still in custody as of Monday, facing a possible deportation.
Now, 21 Savage’s attorney, Charles H. Kuck, has released a statement calling the arrest a “civil law violation,” which was “based upon incorrect information about prior criminal charge.”
Kuck said ICE is refusing to release his client “on bond of any amount,” and that no timeline has been given for his detention, or whether it will eventually result in deportation.
Additionally, Kuck stated that 21 Savage never kept his immigration status a secret, and that he, in fact, submitted an application for a U visa two years ago. “The Department of Homeland Security has known his address and his history since his filing for the U Visa in 2017, yet they took no action against him until this past weekend,” said Kuck.
U visas are typically granted to “victims of crimes (and their immediate family members) who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse” while in the country. Neither Kuck nor the rapper has offered more details on the visa application.
“This is a civil law violation, and the continued detention of [21 Savage] serves no other purpose than to unnecessarily punish him and try to intimidate him into giving up his right to fight to remain in the United States,” claimed Kuck.
“ICE can only continue to detain individuals who are a threat the community or a flight risk to not show up at their hearings,” the rapper’s lawyer added. “Obviously, our client is not a flight risk, as he is widely recognizable, and a prominent member of the music industry. Likewise, [21 Savage] is clearly not a danger to the community, and in fact, his contributions to local communities and schools that he grew up in are examples of the type of immigrant we want in America.”
It’s unclear where exactly 21 Savage was born. Some sources indicate he hails from Dominica. The West Indies island country gained its independence from Great Britain in 1978, but Dominicans are still able to claim British citizenship. However, noted tabloid The Daily Mail claims to have obtained a copy of the rapper’s birth certificate, which lists London as his place of birth. He and his family are believed to have settled in Atlanta beginning in 2015.
Update – February 5th: According to his attorneys, 21 Savage was born in Newham, a borough of London. He immigrated to the United States with his family he was seven years old. He briefly returned to the UK in 2005, but returned to the US after just a month. His attorneys contend 21 Savage lost his legal status in 2006 “through no fault of his own” and applied for a visa in 2017 once he learned he was in the country illegally.
According to CBS News, 21 Savage was arrested as part of “an operation” targeting his cousin, the rapper Young Nudy, who was subsequently charged with aggravated assault and violation of the Georgia Gang Act.
The arrest, of course, comes amidst ICE’s “radicalization” under the Trump administration. In 2018, ICE arrests increased 11% since the previous year. Working in tandem with the US Customs and Border Protection, ICE has detained thousands of migrant children, many in deplorable and even dangerous centers. The country recently experienced the longest government shutdown in US history over Trump’s border wall.
Read his lawyer’s full statement below.
ICE detained She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, the well-known Atlanta based recording artist and songwriter also known as “21 Savage”. Based upon incorrect information about prior criminal charges and now refusing to release him on bond of any amount, despite the fact that he has a pending U-Visa application (as the victim of crime) with USCIS, and that he has relief from removal available to him. Mr. Abraham-Joseph has never hidden his immigration status from the US government. The Department of Homeland Security has known his address and his history since his filing for the U Visa in 2017, yet they took no action against him until this past weekend. ICE can only continue to detain individuals who are a threat the community or a flight risk to not show up at their hearings. Obviously, our client is not a flight risk, as he is widely recognizable, and a prominent member of the music industry. Likewise, Mr. Abraham-Joseph’s is clearly not a danger to the community, and in fact, his contributions to local communities and schools that he grew up in are examples of the type of immigrant we want in America.
ICE has not charged Mr. Abraham-Joseph with any crime. As a minor, his family overstayed their work visas, and he, like almost two million other children, was left without legal status through no fault of his own. This is a civil law violation, and the continued detention of Mr. Abraham-Joseph serves no other purpose than to unnecessarily punish him and try to intimidate him into giving up his right to fight to remain in the United States. He rose above the difficult circumstances of his youth to achieve success and make contributions to our society that rival any of those by a natural born citizen. Mr. Abraham-Joseph has US citizen children that he supports and is eligible for relief from deportation. We and he will fight for his release, for his family, and his right to remain in our country. No one would expect less from him.