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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Rapper 21 Savage Disputes ICE Story About His Arrest: Reason Roundup

By Elizabeth Nolan Brown - February 05, 2019 at 09:30AM

Lawyers for rapper 21 Savage are disputing federal agents' claims about the 26-year-old, who was arrested Sunday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. ICE said the rapper—whose real name is Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph—had been decieving everyone about having Atlanta roots, was actually from the U.K., and had overstayed his immigration visa for years.

That's all false, his lawyers say. While his Wikipedia page did indeed claim he was from Atlanta, the artist didn't write the entry himself.

It's understandable why whoever did may have been confused, since 21 Savage did attend junior high and high school in Atlanta and has been here since 2005.

An ICE spokesperson told WSBTV that the arrest was related to 21 Savage's status as "a convicted felon." But the one criminal charge in the rapper's history—a 2014 arrest on drug possession charges—was expunged last September, his lawyer Charles H. Kuck said. So if that's the reason for 21 Savage's arrest, it's "based on incorrect information about prior criminal charges."

ICE is right that the artist did overstay his visa—it expired way back in 2006. But it's not exactly his fault: At the time of his coming to the U.S. and his staying past the permitted time, 21 Savage was a minor. His parents brought him here when he was 12, and then overstayed their own work visas the following year.

"Like almost two million other children, [21 Savage] was left without legal status through no fault of his own," said Kuck. He continued:

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.

As an adult, 21 Savage has since been trying to get his immigration status right. In 2017, he applied for a U-Visa, admitting then to his undocumented plight. The Department of Homeland Security "has known his address and his history" since then, explained Kuck.

It's unclear why ICE waited until now to make a move. But what is clear is that some initial reporting and speculation surrounding the rapper's arrest were unwarranted. This isn't a case of a criminal brazenly trying to avoid detection, but a young man paying for his parents' actions and being used as a pawn in immigration politics.

21 Savage's arrest came just a few days after he performed on The Tonight Show.

ICE is currently holding him in federal custody without eligibility for bond. "We and he will fight for his release," said Kuck, "and his right to remain in our country."

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