Rapper 21 Savage released from ICE detention but could still be deported
(CNN) — Rapper 21 Savage was released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody Wednesday after spending more than a week in detention, his attorney Charles Kuck said.
21 Savage, whose legal name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was released on bond, Kuck said. A photo from his attorneys provided to CNN affiliate WSB showed the rapper and his mother boarding a private plane after his release.
He was arrested February 3 by ICE, which said he was born in the United Kingdom and was in the United States illegally. His birth certificate says he was born in East London to British parents.
The Grammy-nominated rapper’s arrest shocked his legion of fans because he is closely associated with Atlanta and its music scene. He has said the “21” in his name is a reference to a street gang in Decatur near Atlanta, and his songs often refer to his past in East Atlanta’s Zone 6.
But 21 Savage’s detention also has heightened awareness of the plight of undocumented immigrants, particularly in the Trump era.
On Tuesday night, the website Mic released a video with a bevy of stars, including Kendrick Lamar, DJ Khaled, America Ferrera, Common and SZA, showing solidarity with 21 Savage and other undocumented immigrants facing deportation.
“No person in this world deserves to be treated like this,” DJ Khaled says in the video. “The time for change is now.”
The video then asks people to sign a petition to “#Free21Savage.”
21 Savage was featured on Post Malone’s Grammy-nominated hit “Rockstar,” and he had been scheduled to perform at Sunday’s show before his arrest, publicist Tammy Brook said. Instead, he was mentioned during an award speech from “This Is America” songwriter Ludwig Göransson.
“We want to thank all the rappers that are featured on the song. 21 Savage, who should be here tonight,” Göransson said, earning applause from Post Malone.
He’s been living in US illegally, ICE says
21 Savage was brought to the United States at age 7 and in 2005 left before returning a month later, according to Kuck. In 2006, 21 Savage’s parents failed to renew his visa. He’s been living in the United States illegally since then, according to immigration officials.
His attorneys Kuck, Dina LaPolt and Alex Spiro, issued a statement Tuesday on behalf of the performer that thanked his supporters.
“21 Savage asked us to send a special message to his fans and supporters — he says that while he wasn’t present at the Grammy Awards, he was there in spirit and is grateful for the support from around the world and is, more than ever, ready to be with his loved ones and continue making music that brings people together,” the statement said.
“He will not forget this ordeal or any of the other fathers, sons, family members, and faceless people he was locked up with or that remain unjustly incarcerated across the country. And he asks for your hearts and minds to be with them.”
An ICE spokesman referred questions on the topic to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Justice Department office that oversees US immigration cases. An Executive Office for Immigration Review spokesman referred questions to ICE.
He has applied for a visa
Kuck has said his client has a U-visa application pending with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and “has relief from removal available to him.” The visa application was filed in 2017, four years after the rapper reportedly was shot six times during an incident in which a friend of his died.
A U-visa is available to those who have been the victims of a crime in the United States, have suffered physical or mental injury as a result of a crime and who are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in an investigation or criminal prosecution, according to ICE.
LaPolt said last week that attorneys were working to clear up any misunderstandings with ICE and help free the rapper.
“Mr. Abraham-Joseph is a role model to the young people in this country, especially in Atlanta, Georgia, and is actively working in the community leading programs to help underprivileged youths in financial literacy,” LaPolt said in a statement to CNN.
The rapper announced a “21 Savage Bank Account” campaign last year that gave 21 teens $1,000 to start their own bank accounts and learn about financial literacy.
“It’s ironic because growing up in Atlanta, I knew almost nothing about bank accounts,” 21 Savage said in a March news release. “Now that I do have money in my bank account, I want to help kids with a background similar to mine to get smart about their money.”
In October 2014, 21 Savage was convicted in Fulton County, Georgia, on counts of marijuana possession with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of certain felonies and manufacturing, delivery, distribution and/or possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. The rapper’s representatives said the conviction was expunged.
He began rapping in 2013 and became part of Atlanta’s robust underground hip-hop scene. In 2017, his studio debut, “Issa,” hit No. 2 on the rap charts. His latest album, “I Am > I Was” was released last month and spent the first two weeks of 2019 atop the Billboard 200.
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