While the hip hop community continues to deal with the aftermath of popular rapper 21 Savage being arrested and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement are already stepping up to rally behind him.
According to TMZ, ironically, it was most likely 21 Savage’s desire to become a legal resident, and the visa he filed in 2017 to make that happen, that put him on ICE’s radar and triggered his arrest.
As part of the process, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did a background check, which revealed the rapper was born in the UK, and came to the U.S. legally in 2005 with a visa that has since expired. In 2014 he pled guilty to felony drug charges, but may have believed he was in the clear because his record was expunged in 2018.
However, it turns out ICE technically doesn’t have to honor an expungement, and can choose to use both the arrest and conviction as grounds for deportation. Further complicating this case is the fact that people who have been illegally in the United states for 10 years or longer, but have a qualifying U.S. relative living here, or often granted a U-Visa. Given that Savage has three American born children, that normally would make him eligible. But ICE has decided to nullify his eligibility due to his record.
In response to these actions, Monday, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors created a #Free21Savage petition on the Campaigns for Change website.
— Okayplayer (@okayplayer) February 5, 2019
The document claims that the rapper, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is being targeted and denied the rights that normally would have been available to someone in his predicament due to discrimination.
“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,” it reads. “The US’ violent history of criminalizing blackness intersects with its deadly legacy of detaining and deporting Black and Brown immigrants. This needs to stop today!”
“There are around 4.2 Million Black immigrants in the U.S. – 619,000 are undocumented,” the petition reads. “Mr. Abraham-Joseph has been in the United States since he was a young child. Atlanta is his home.”
Savage’s lawyer, Charles H. Kuck, also agrees that this is a heavy handed miscarriage of justice.
“This is a civil law violation, 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 in a statement.
“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. We and he will fight for his release, for his family, and his right to remain in our country. No one would expect less from him.”