It's acknowledged that the 26-year-old rapper—legal name She'yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph—was born in the United Kingdom and came to the U.S. legally at the age of 7. He allegedly remained in the states until June 2005, when he briefly went back to the U.K. for about a month. He returned to the U.S. in July 2005 with under a valid H-4 visa; however, his lawyers state he "lost his legal status through no fault of his own" in the following year.
21's legal team is now calling for the rapper to be granted bond, as they believe he is not considered a flight risk or a danger to the community. They also say ICE provided inaccurate information about 21's criminal history, and that he has no convictions or charges under state or federal law.
Shortly after he was arrested Sunday in Atlanta, ICE agents said the rapper had been convicted of felony drug charges in 2014. Attorney Jacoby Hudson disputed ICE's claims: "He's not a convicted felon, so they reported that wrong, from their 2014 arrest. That arrest should be expunged. He has no felony convictions."
Tuesday's letter goes on to emphasize 21's deep Georgia roots. Lawyers point out that the rapper has remained in the states for decades, has family members who are legal residences, and has given back to his community through his art various charitable efforts. Attorneys also suggest 21 may have been targeted over his 2018 track "A Lot," in which he criticizes the country's immigration policies on an extended version of the song: "Went through some things, but I couldn't imagine my kids stuck at the border/Flint still need water, niggas was innocent, couldn’t get lawyers," he raps.
You can read the full statement below.
There has been a great deal of misreporting in the case of She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, known professionally as 21 Savage. Conjecture and misinformation help no one make good decisions and leads to false conclusions. Here are the facts:
Mr. Abraham-Joseph was born in the United Kingdom. Mr. Abraham-Joseph arrived legally in the United States at the age of 7. He remained in the United States until 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's legal status expired 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.
Editor's note: After the statement was released, representatives for 21 Savage shared a correction for stating that 21 "arrived legally in the United States at the age of 7 under an H-4 visa." The revised portion now reads: "Mr. Abraham-Joseph arrived legally in the United States at the age of 7."