Attorneys for 21 Savage said Monday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is refusing to release the Grammy-nominated rapper on bond and called his arrest a civil law violation.
The 26-year-old, whose legal name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was detained early Sunday morning after being accused of overstaying his visa. ICE reported that he was arrested as part of a “targeted operation,” saying the rapper was actually from Britain and came to America with his family as a minor. Abraham-Joseph’s lawyers confirmed that his family overstayed their work visas in a statement Monday but said Savage 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,” attorney Charles Kuck said in a statement. “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 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.”
Kuck said his client had never hidden his immigration status from the U.S. government and that he had applied for a U visa in 2017. That visa is reserved for “victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials.” It’s given to around 10,000 people each year, according to The Hill. It’s not clear in what way he was a crime victim for the purpose of the visa.
Abraham-Joseph has long been considered a local act from Atlanta and has said in interviews that he grew up in the city. He has recounted joining a gang as a teenager and selling drugs to get by, as well as being expelled from the DeKalb County School District for gun possession.
ICE pushed back against that description shortly after arresting the rapper. The agency’s spokesman told CNN this week that “his whole public persona is false.”
Kuck rejected that assertion, saying Monday his client “rose above the difficult circumstances of his youth to achieve success and make contributions to our society.”
“Mr. Abraham-Joseph has US citizen children that he supports and is eligible for relief from deportation,” the attorney said. “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.”
Abraham-Joseph has been nominated for two Grammy Awards this year, including record of the year for “Rockstar” alongside Post Malone.
If he is deported, the artist could face a 10-year ban on returning to the United States.