Photo courtesy of Chippy's PR Team
Last week, the Los Angeles-by-way-of-Oakland rapper Chippy Nonstop was wrapping up a tour of Asia when at LAX, she was told by Homeland Security that, due to a visa issue, she wasn't going to be allowed back into America. She was held in a room, interrogated by Homeland Security, and then promptly put on a flight to Vancouver, Canada, which was the closest flight to Canada, where she retains citizenship. She's made a ton of noise about it on her Twitter, and even started a half-joke, half-serious petition to President Obama meant to raise awareness for her plight. Following a recent Gawker article brought her situation to light, I decided to hit Chippy up to see what the deal was. After fumbling for a few minutes trying to figure out how to use the chat app Line, Chippy and I had a frank chat about her immigration status, her very grave issue being made fun of on the internet, and her decision to let being deported change her into a more serious artist than ever before.
Noisey: OK, so tell me/the internet what's going on right now.
Chippy Nonstop: So I'm in Canada right now.
You were doing a mini tour in Asia and tried to come back to LA and…? They just didn't let you back?
Basically I was in Thailand and Japan for some shows, which was a mistake on my part to leave. I knew something like this might happen, because I was traveling with an expired visa, although I was in the process of applying for a new visa and sometimes there are certain waiver exceptions for scenarios similar to mine, although this time didn't work in my favor. It can sometimes just be a luck game at the border, I think. I was coming into L.A and I got screened to go into another section. And then I was put into another room, I didn't even know what was going on, any questions I had were going unanswered and everyone was super hostile.
I was waiting to talk to this other homeland security guy. But before I was taken to the airport jail I was in a questioning area, and they googled my name and you know even if you google my name all Chippy Nonstop info comes up. So they started mocking me and calling me Chippy and wouldn't even call me Chhavi, which is my real name. They were like reading my twitter and asking me what drugs have a done? They asked me how many times in my entire life I've EVER smoked weed. The worst part was I started my period right as I was going into the room. I had blood all over my pants and I was crying and asking if I could change but they had my luggage put away. The homeland security guard was laughing because I was crying and I said "I'm bleeding in my pants" and they were all laughing and mocking me. I was locked in a room for a few hours, and the only thing I had to eat was some soup and water. I hadn’t eaten and I was on my period so I felt sick and couldn’t get any medicine.
Jesus. That’s insane that government employees in charge of another human's status and physical location would act like that. And after that, they put you on a flight to Vancouver?
They let my call my boyfriend who was sitting outside to tell him where I was, and they said I had two minutes to talk to someone and decide where to go—they said either way I’d have to pay for it, so choose wisely. The only two options they gave me were a $300 flight to Vancouver and a $3,000 flight to Japan, so I was like “Well, I guess I’m going to Vancouver.”
BEFORE N AFTER PICS pic.twitter.com/xmGfKRT2lf
— DEPORTED NONSTOP (@chippy_nonstop) February 24, 2015
Do you have family/friends in Vancouver?
All my immediate family lives in California. I have one friend in Vancouver that dated my boyfriend’s best friend, but she lives about two hours from the city. Other than that I don't really personally know anyone. So I'm pretty much in Vancouver alone. I don’t have any family in Canada at all—I’ve been living in the US since I was 11. Basically, the visa process is really confusing and I regret not having the correct information and resources to avoid the situation I am in.
What's the situation as it stands?
I have a few options to get back into America. I think America makes it really complicated and unfair for Canadian citizens to come into the states. It’s not necessarily homeland security's fault, they are just doing their job aimlessly and robotically with any compassion or humanity. Everything will take time though and I just need to be patient and positive and look at the bigger picture. I don't want to step on any toes or break any laws; I want to handle everything legally and hopefully, and in the process make some people in America more aware about the unfairness and difficulties it is to get a green card and a visa. Hopefully when I make it back there I can make myself more aware of what is going on with my status to avoid this situation and maybe in the future be more politically involved and help other artist immigrants avoid situations like this and inform them of the repercussions so they don't have to go through what I did.
As far as legal options, what are there?
I have three main options:
1. Get an O1 Visa, which is an artist visa.
2. Get a company to sponsor me and give me a job, prove that I'm the only one who can do the job in the U.S.
3. Get married.
NEW ALBUM ART pic.twitter.com/ftMatFNQp6
— DEPORTED NONSTOP (@chippy_nonstop) February 24, 2015
How were you living here before?
I was working illegally under the table, and now I'm dealing with the repercussions. I had a student visa, and after that I had a dependent visa which is a E2. But on both those visas you can't legally work or get social security in the states, so they make it almost impossible for you to have a real life.
So it seems like you're treating this fairly lightly on twitter but behind that are treating it super seriously. How do you feel about it making the news at a place like Gawker?
Yeah I mean that's just my personality. I was taking it really rough for the first few days and insanely traumatized. But taking this lightly in public makes me feel better. I'm definitely taking this seriously though. I’m handling my paperwork and getting this done the best way I can. I don't want to fuck around anymore. I need to get my life on track. And yes I did fuck up, I'm not denying that, but that doesn't make the government is unfair and the laws make sense. I regret being uninformed about everything. As far as gawker, I don't care about the hurtful kind of comedy shit people say because I'm a troll myself. I understand how media works, it's just pretty lazy journalism. But yeah making fun of it on twitter is also just a coping mechanism for me. In the bigger scheme of things this might be a good thing for me.
I feel that. I also think being flippant on the internet lends itself to those types of trollish articles, because people are like, “Oh, well if she's taking this lightly we should too.”
I understand if I'm taking it lightly other people might too, but it does really affect me and mostly just my life and my family, my boyfriend and my friends. And people who don't want to talk to me and understand why this is happening and the circumstances on which this went down can fuck themselves lol.
What do you mean it might be a good thing?
Because I will get all my paperwork correct and have a better platform to help other artists in my position. I've always dreamed of being involved in something that actually makes a impact so I’d love to be involved in petitions and protests to hopefully one day make the world a more accepting place.
Word! So do you think this will affect your music/art in general?
I mean the world is so connected! I go any where I have the internet. If anything this will inspire me to keep creating and working hard and now I really have a message I want people to hear. And people who think I'm dumb for being deported and not settling my paperwork will learn the bigger picture in all of this. They are aimlessly following these rules and ideals of the United States for what? They don't even know. I am a honest, passionate, hard working person. I want to live with my family and friends. I want to pay taxes. I want to work legally. What is the problem here? Is it me? Or is it the fucking government! What were laws made to protect? They have no meaning. They can't protect their own people from terrorists and diseases but they are going to enforce these laws on a young girl who just wants to work and be with her friends and family.
Again, I'm not saying what I did wasn't wrong, I did stay way past my visa, but maybe not now but in the future I can help be part of a movement to make a difference and change some immigration laws.
Drew Millard is the Features Editor of Noisey. He's on Twitter.