On Sunday, Feb. 3, Grammy-nominated rapper Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph- better known by his stage name, 21 Savage- was arrested by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for allegedly overstaying his visa by more than 13 years.
In 2005, when Savage was 13 years old, he came to the United States from Britain. His visa expired a year later but he failed to leave and is now facing deportation. Savage frequently talks about his tumultuous childhood in the Eastside of Atlanta. He has said that his brother and a friend died from gun violence and that he was expelled from school for bringing a gun. On his 21st birthday he was shot six times in an incident that resulted in the death of his friend. The “21” in his stage name as well as the “21” tattooed on his face are in reference to a street gang that he was a part of in Decatur, Georgia.
The news of his immigration status came as a shock to many of his fans as he has talked so often of his upbringing in Atlanta. Atlanta has one of the most dominant presences in rap culture in the United States and fans never really had a reason to question if he was legally in the U.S. Fans from Atlanta always considered him to be a local act due to the lack of information to the contrary. In fact, before his arrest his Wikipedia page said that he had been born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1992. An ICE official has since stated that Savage’s, “Whole persona is false,” when requested to comment on the arrest.
Savage’s lawyer has stated that the rapper plans to fight to stay in the U.S. and has laid out the basis of his argument. The rapper had applied for a visa two years ago as a, “Victim of crime.” This shows that he never tried to hide his immigration status. Furthermore, he did not stay of his own volition as he was a minor under his parents’ custody at the time when his visa expired. Additionally, Savage has been a very active member in his community since he became famous, as he has worked on financial literacy programs for underprivileged youth in Atlanta.
As such a prominent figure in the entertainment industry and as someone who gives back immensely to those in need, Savage’s lawyers are claiming that the arrest is being used solely to intimidate him into leaving the United States. He has been nominated for two awards at the Grammys this year, one of which being for record of the year for his song Rockstar with Post Malone. He is also the father of three children, all of whom were born in the United States. His prominence in society along with the fact that he has children and did not actively hide his immigration status are all strong arguments for allowing him to remain in the United States. On the other side of the argument however, ICE has said that Savage was taken into custody because he is, “Unlawfully present in the U.S. and also a convicted felon.” Both of the claims against him are true as he was arrested and convicted of felony drug charges in 2014. During his earlier arrest, Savage was already an illegal immigrant who had overstayed his visa, but ICE was unaware of this information and only recently became aware of it.
As the proceedings following his arrest continue, there will likely be a large quantity of information released regarding this case and it will soon be determined whether Savage will be able to stay in the U.S. or be deported back to Britain.