February 15, 2019
By Gina Cherelus
(Reuters) – A lawyer for rap artist 21 Savage said on Friday the entertainer was in part detained by U.S. immigration officials because he is a celebrity who has been outspoken about family-separation security issues at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The entertainer, whose real name is She’yaa BinAbraham-Joseph, was arrested on Feb. 3 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on charges he is a foreign citizen who had overstayed his visa by more than a decade. Officials said he came to the United States from Britain.
Atlanta U.S. Immigration Judge Dan Pelletier granted the 26 year old a $100,000 bond during a hearing on Tuesday and the performer was released from an ICE detention center in south Georgia on Wednesday.
ICE officials on Friday did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
During a Friday appearance on ABC News’ “Good Morning America,” Abraham-Joseph said he arrived in the United States when he was 7 years old with his mother and brothers, and that his visa expired in 2006. He told ABC News’ Linsey Davis that he was arrested while driving in Atlanta.
“They didn’t — they didn’t say nothing. They just said, ‘We got Savage,’” Abraham-Joseph said. “It was definitely targeted.”
His arrest came days after he released the music video for his song “a lot,” whose lyrics touch on family separation issues at the U.S.-Mexico border: “Been through some things, but I couldn’t imagine, my kids stuck at the border.”
Lawyer Alex Spiro, who appeared alongside Abraham-Joseph on Good Morning America, cited the rap artist’s music where he criticized ICE as being one reason he was detained.
“There’s a lot of things about this case that are curious and troubling,” Spiro said. “He’s getting a visa, he’s operating in good faith, he’s performing, he’s giving back to his community, he’s a son, he’s a father and yet they take this step, this unusual step, to arrest him.”
Abraham-Joseph has a visa application pending before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that was filed in 2017. The rapper’s legal team said a deportation hearing for him was pending but that they were confident that he would be able to remain in the United States.
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)