21 Savage Arrested by ICE Less Than a Week After Denouncing Child Detentions on Live TV

Feb 4, 2019
12:11 PM

21 Savage performs onstage on January 31, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest/EA SPORTS BOWL)

Rapper 21 Savage was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Sunday morning. ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox said “his whole public persona is false. He actually came to the U.S. from the U.K. as a teen and overstayed his visa.”

The arrest, which was part of a targeted operation, comes less than a week after the rapper’s performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. During the January 29 performance of his latest single “a lot,” he added lines where he denounced the water crisis in Flint and child detentions at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The lights was off, the gas was off, so we had to boil up the water/Been through some things so I can’t imagine my kids stuck at the border, Flint still need water, People was innocent, couldn’t get lawyers,” he rapped. The lines are not included in the album version of the single.

Many have pointed out that his detention is awfully close to that live performance.

This isn’t the first time that immigration authorities have targeted activists or those outspoken about injustices committed by ICE. Last year, the arrest of outspoken undocumented activist and vlogger Alejandra Pablos caught the Latino community’s attention. Also, in May of 2018, Seattle undocumented activist Maru Mora-Villalpand was detained due to her “anti-ICE” organizing.

Something else that others are pointing out is the anti-blackness surrounding reactions to 21 Savage’s arrest.

Many activists and even celebrities are taking a stand in solidarity with the “monster” rapper and songwriter.

Organizers are also asking for support for organizations like the Black Alliance for Just Immigrant (BAJI) and UndocuBlack, who work diligently to advocate for black immigrants. Their work reminds folks that although some of the most prominent cases or stories surrounding the issue of immigration center Latinos, programs like DACA and the push for overall immigration reform also benefit many black (both Latino and non-Latino) immigrants who are targeted by ICE. A 2017 report from The Atlantic states that “although only 7 percent of non-citizens in the U.S. are black, they make up 20 percent of those facing deportation on criminal grounds.”

21 Savage, whose real name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is 26 years old and considered a local Atlanta act. The arrest has caused a flurry of memes mocking his roots in the city that birthed trap music. Some, including fellow ATL-rapper Offset, denounced the memes.

As of this morning, 21 Savage is still under custody. ICE’s Bryan Cox stated that he has been placed on “removal proceedings before the federal immigration courts.”


Amanda Alcántara is the Digital Media Editor at Latino Rebels and Futuro Media Group.