Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) wrote a letter to an immigration judge in defense of 21 Savage, the Atlanta-based rapper Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested over the weekend and has accused of overstaying a visa from the United Kingdom.
Johnson argued that 21 Savage ― whose given name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph ― is a “remarkable young man” with “deep family roots and personal ties to the state of Georgia,” according to the letter dated Feb. 3 and obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He called Abraham-Joseph a charitable man who has spent his time and resources on the community and his family.
The news of Abraham-Joseph’s arrest was a shock to the entertainment industry, in part because he was widely considered to be an Atlanta local.
“She’yaa was born outside of the United States and moved here at a very young age with his parents, sister and brother,” Johnson wrote. “He was raised and spent his formative years in and around Atlanta, and he has developed deep family roots and personal ties to our wonderful state of Georgia, and to Gwinnett and DeKalb counties in particular. She’yaa’s immediate family members residing there include his mother, three sisters, two brothers and three children. She’yaa is the primary breadwinner for most of his siblings, and for his children.”
Johnson argued the rapper should be released on bail, but ICE so far has refused to do so.
ICE said Abraham-Joseph entered the U.S. legally in 2005 as a minor, but then overstayed his visa, which expired in July 2006. The agency’s spokespeople have said he was collared as part of a “targeted operation” and that “his whole public persona is false.” He was also convicted of felony drug charges in 2014, immigration officials told The Associated Press.
A federal judge will have to decide whether Abraham-Joseph is allowed to stay in the U.S. If he is deported, he could face a decade-long ban on re-entering the country.
“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,” said Abraham-Joseph’s attorney, Charles Kuck, according to Rolling Stone.
Abraham-Joseph was nominated for two Grammy Awards this year, including record of the year for “Rockstar.”