21 Savage arrested by ICE for illegal immigrant status
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The arrest of rapper 21 Savage by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Atlanta during Super Bowl Sunday has prompted widespread outrage from the rapping community and immigration advocates, raising many questions.
Attorneys for the rapper, born She’yaa Bin 21 Abraham-Joseph, dispute claims from immigration authorities that he first arrived in the United States as a teenager from the United Kingdom and that he has a record of felony drug conviction. They’re fighting to get him back to his family and fans as quickly as possible.
The rapper’s case garnered national attention after his arrest, with a number of stars speaking out in his defense, including fellow rappingians Meek Mill, Cardi B, T.I., and Nicki Minaj. On Wednesday, Jay-Z issued a strong statement condemning 21 Savage’s arrest as a “travesty,” followed with a similar statement from 21 Savage’s hired attorney, Alex Spiro, to TIME.
21 Savage was taken into custody in a “targeted operation,” ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox said Sunday. ICE claimed the rapper came legally to the U.S. in 2005 as a teenager, yet continued to stay illegally in the country after his visa expired in July 2006. ICE also stated the rapper was convicted on felony drug charges in October 2014 in Fulton County, GA. 21 Savage’s lawyers dispute that he was ever convicted. Chris Hopper, spokesperson for the Fulton County District Attorney’s office, provided a comment to TIME that the case was sealed under Georgia’s first offender law and the office couldn’t make a statement.
The young rapper, who made his name in Atlanta’s influential rapping scene, has confirmed he was born in the U.K., his representatives say ICE arrested him based upon “incorrect information” regarding an alleged previous criminal conviction. Although they acknowledge 21 Savage had lost his legal status in the United States, the rapper’s attorneys dispute portions of ICE’s statement regarding his arrest.
21 Savage came to the U.S. legally at the age of 7. He returned to the U.K. for a one-month visit in 2005 and returned to the States in July 2005 on an H-4 visa, which expired in 2006 according to the statement, leaving 21 Savage without legal status in the U.S.
His lawyers also said that nearly 2 million young undocumented immigrants, 21 Savage was left without an official immigration status as a young child, and was unable to fix it.
The rapper’s lawyers said in the statement that 21 Savage has established a full life in the country: he has three children who are U.S. citizens, a mother who is a lawful permanent resident, and four siblings who are either citizens or lawful permanent residents.
21 Savage’s attorneys also say in the statement that ICE’s claim that the rapper was convicted on drug charges in 2014 is incorrect, and that he has no criminal charges or convictions under state or federal law. Spiro added that the rapper was arrested for marijuana possession, but that his case was later sealed and vacated due to a legal problem in the way it was brought forward.