Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, better known as the Grammy-nominated rapper, “21 Savage” was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on February 3, reports GQ Online. Abraham-Joseph was arrested along with at least two other individuals on unrelated charges.
According to Variety, the rapper entered the United States under an H-4 visa in 2005 as a minor. The H-4 visa allows recipients of other H visas, who are temporarily in the United States for work, to bring a dependent with them. The H-4 visa granted to Abraham-Joseph expired a year later in 2006. Since then, according to ICE spokesman Brian Cox, he is an “unlawfully present United Kingdom national.”
Attorney Dina Lapolt told Variety that “Mr. Abraham Joseph is a role model to the young people in the country, and actively working in the Atlanta community leading programs to help underprivileged youths in financial literacy.”
Only seven years old at the time of his arrival in Georgia, Abraham-Joseph spent his teenage years growing up in the Atlanta area, exposing him to local gangs and drug dealings. In 2014, he was arrested on felony drug possession, which makes his mandatory detention valid. As Yahoo News reports, “21” is derived from a street gang the rapper was a part of in Decatur, Georgia.
After gaining massive attention from the media, many prominent celebrities such as Jay-Z and even Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke out against the arrest of Abraham-Joseph. A federal judge authorized his release on bail as he awaits his deportation hearing.
As reported by NBC News, the United Kingdom national could face a ten year ban from reentering the United States. During his interview on “Good Morning America,” the 26 year old referred to himself a “dreamer” and explained that he has never made it a point to hide his immigration status from authorities.
In 2017, representatives of the artist filed for a U-visa. This rare visa is only granted to about 10,000 individuals per year, and is “for victims of crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
It is still unclear as to what crime Abraham-Joseph might be a victim of, and he has been subject to criticism by individuals like Dan Cadman of the Center for Immigration Studies. Cadman argues that the rapper’s felony criminal record and admittance of committing various crimes in a GC interview in June 2018, such as “robbing the hell out of everybody,” discredits the possibility of Abraham-Joseph actually being the victim of a crime. Rather, his legal team is attempting to obtain a U-visa because of its ability to bypass the mandatory detention statute, and requires the “release of the alien from custody.”
The attention garnered by this case comes during a time where ICE continues to be criticized by many prominent representatives. According to The Washington Times, in a November 2018 hearing Californian Senator, Kamala Harris, compared ICE to the Ku Klux Klan when speaking to then acting director Ronald D. Vitiello.
Furthermore, this situation fuels the national debate over the funding for a Southern border wall, as the integrity and ethical standards of ICE are continually questioned.