Atlanta rapper 21 Savage’s lawyer said Monday that his arrest by immigration agents is an attempt to “intimidate him” and claimed that his detention was based on incorrect information.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials alleged that 21, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is a “U.K. national” who overstayed his visa and has a felony drug conviction on his record.
But the Grammy-nominated star’s attorney, Charles Kuck, disputed that in a statement that left some questions unanswered.
Kuck said ICE based the detention on “incorrect information about prior criminal charges and [is] 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 [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services], and that he has relief from removal available to him.” He said the feds have known his client’s address since he filed for the U-Visa in 2017 and questioned why they took no action until this weekend.
The arrest came as a shock to fans of the rapper, who has long been associated with Atlanta and is often described as having been born and raised in the city.
But Kuck claims that Savage never hid his immigration status. The rapper’s mother gave an interview at one of his annual back to school drives last year, for example, speaking in an obvious British accent.
Kuck said there is no reason to keep his client in detention, calling the rapper, whose most recent album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and who has donated extensively to Atlanta area schools, exactly “the type of immigrant we want in America.”
“ICE can only continue to detain individuals who are a threat the community or a flight risk to not show up at their hearings,” Kuck wrote. “Obviously, our client is not a flight risk, as he is widely recognizable, and a prominent member of the music industry.”
“This is a civil law violation,” he said, “and the continued detention of Mr. Abraham-Joseph serves no other purpose than to unnecessarily punish him and try to intimidate him into giving up his right to fight to remain in the United States,” he said. “He rose above the difficult circumstances of his youth to achieve success and make contributions to our society that rival any of those by a natural born citizen. Mr. Abraham-Joseph has U.S. citizen children that he supports and is eligible for relief from deportation.”
If 21 Savage remains in custody he will miss the Grammy Awards, where he is nominated in two categories, including a Record of the Year nod for his work on Post Malone’s Rockstar.