A Georgia lawmaker is urging federal officials to release British-born rapper 21 Savage after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials detained him in Atlanta this week.
The 26-year-old rhymesmith, who has made his Atlanta upbringing central to his musical persona, was born in the London borough of Newham to British parents, according to a birth certificate obtained by CNN. The document lists his parents’ home as East Ham, a district within Newham.
ICE says he came to the States at age 12 but remains a UK citizen. He entered the United States legally when he was a minor in July 2005 but subsequently failed to depart under the terms of his nonimmigrant visa, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said. His visa expired in 2006.
The rapper, born She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is being held without bail based on “incorrect information about prior criminal charges,” his lawyer said, further claiming that ICE seeks only to “intimidate” his client into leaving the country as he awaits the fate of a special visa application.
In a letter to ICE, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, described the rapper as a “remarkable young man … (who) spends his time giving back to the community.”
Johnson said 21 is a prime candidate for bond based on him being a valuable member of the community and the sole breadwinner for his siblings and children.
“I believe that it would be a serious hardship to She’yaa’s family and a loss for our community if he is not allowed bail so that he can be released from prison,” he said.
Abraham-Joseph has been placed into removal proceedings, ICE said. It added that future actions will be determined by the outcome of the case before a federal immigration judge.
Removal proceedings are ongoing
Immigration attorney Charles Kuck said the rapper came to the US legally. He took a trip to the United Kingdom in 2005 and returned on an H-4 visa, Kuck said.
H-4 visas are granted to the children of immigrants who hold H-1B visas, which are given to foreign workers in specialty occupations.
In a statement, Kuck said, “Like almost two million of his immigrant child peers, (he) was left without immigration status as a young child with no way to fix his immigration status.”
21’s legal status expired in 2006 through “no fault of his own,” the attorney said.
The rapper has applied for a U-visa, which is pending with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Kuck said. The 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 the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity,” according to ICE.
The application was filed in 2017, four years after he was reportedly shot six times during an incident in which his friend died.
He’s father to three US citizens
Abraham-Joseph has several relatives in the United States, including three children who are US citizens, and a mother and four siblings who are either lawful permanent residents or US citizens, his lawyer said.
In October 2014, he was convicted in Fulton County 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 say the conviction was expunged.
CNN’s Samuel Quashie-Idun contributed to this report