A petition was created by Black Lives Matter organizers to prevent the deportation of 21 Savage following his arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Atlanta last weekend. ICE claims that the rapper, born Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is a U.K. citizen and has been living in the states on a visa that expired in 2005. 21 Savage remains in police custody and is at risk of deportation. The petition, created yesterday, has already gathered over 130,000 signatures.
"The circumstances of Mr. Abraham-Joseph's detention stand as a testament to the consistent and historically under-reported harassment and targeting of Black immigrants," the description of the petition reads. "The US' violent history of criminalizing Blackness intersects with its deadly legacy of detaining and deporting Black and Brown immigrants."
In a performance for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon days before his arrest, 21 Savage altered the lyrics to "A Lot." “Been through some things so I can’t imagine my kids stuck at the border / Flint still need water / People was innocent, couldn’t get lawyers,” he rapped late last month.
Yesterday 21's attorney Charles Kuck released a statement to TMZ to in an attempt to clear up some of the confusion around the news. "As a minor, his family overstayed their work visas, and he, like almost two million other children, was left without legal status through no fault of his own," says Kuck. The attorney also claimed that ICE agents are trying "to intimidate him into giving up his right to remain in the United States." Kuck also claims 21 Savage applied for a U-Visa in 2017. This type of visa is extended to victims of crimes committed in the US. 21's lawyer told TMZ he was applying on the basis of a 2013 incident in which he was shot and a friend was murdered, after which he was "severely affected physically and mentally." This application has yet to be approved.
Visit OrganizeFor to sign the petition.
Noisey has reached out to representatives of 21 Savage for comment.
[UPDATE, February 5, 2019, 3:10 PM EST]: The petition now has 164,698 signatures.
[UPDATE, February 5, 2019, 6:09 PM EST]: Representatives for 21 Savage have released a statement further clarifying his legal situation. Read that statement in full below.
Mr. Abraham-Joseph was born in the United Kingdom. Mr. Abraham-Joseph arrived legally in the United states at the age of 7 under an H-4 visa. He remained in the United States until June 2005, when he departed for approximately one month to visit the United Kingdom. He returned to the United States under a valid H-4 visa on July 22, 2005. Mr. Abraham-Joseph has been continuously physically present in the United States for almost 20 years, except for a brief visit abroad. Unfortunately, in 2006 Mr. Abraham-Joseph lost his legal status through no fault of his own.
Mr. Abraham-Joseph, like almost two million of his immigrant child peers, was left without immigration status as a young child with no way to fix his immigration status. These “Dreamers” come from all walks of life and every ethnicity. Mr. Abraham-Joseph has no criminal convictions or charges under state or federal law and is free to seek relief from removal in immigration court. ICE provided incorrect information to the press when it claimed he had a criminal conviction.
Mr. Abraham-Joseph has three US Citizen children, a lawful permanent resident mother and four siblings that are either US Citizens or lawful permanent residents. He has exceptionally strong ties in the United States, having lived here since he was in the first grade. Because of his length of residence in the United States and his immediate relatives, Mr. Abraham-Joseph is eligible to seek Cancellation of Removal from an Immigration Judge.
Mr. Abraham-Joseph was placed into deportation proceedings AFTER his arrest, he was not in deportation proceedings prior to this detention by ICE. DHS has known his address since the filing of a U visa application in 2017. He has never hidden from DHS or any of its agencies.
Mr. Abraham-Joseph is not subject to mandatory detention under federal law and is eligible for bond. By statute, bond should be granted by ICE when there is no flight risk or a danger to the community. ICE has the ability to set a bond and conditions of release on cases exactly like this. ICE routinely grants bond to individuals in Mr. Abraham-Joseph’s circumstances, specifically individuals who have overstayed a prior valid visa and have relief from deportation under federal law. There is no chance that Mr. Abraham-Joseph is a flight risk. Mr. Abraham-Joseph is not a “danger” to the community as his acts of philanthropy and good will, as well as his music, continue to improve the communities from which he comes.
Mr. Abraham-Joseph has a pending U visa application with the USCIS. This U visa was filed as a result of being the victim of a deadly shooting in 2013. That visa was filed in 2017 and remains pending. When granted, the U visa will afford him lawful status in the United States. Generally, ICE has recognized a pending facially valid U visa as a basis to delay removal proceedings and release individuals from custody.
There continues to be no legal reason to detain Mr. Abraham-Joseph for a civil law violation that occurred when he was a minor, especially when people in his exact situation are routinely released by ICE. Many have speculated as to possible ulterior motives for his arrest and detention, including that he released music five days prior to his arrest by ICE, which included new lyrics condemning the behavior of immigration officials for their detention of children at the border. We are unaware of why ICE apparently targeted Mr. Abraham-Joseph, but we will do everything possible to legally seek his release and pursue his available relief in immigration court.
Kristin Corry is a staff writer for Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.