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.”
ICE spokesman Bryan Cox: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested unlawfully present United Kingdom national Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph AKA ‘21 Savage’ during a targeted operation with federal and local law enforcement partners early Sunday in metro Atlanta.” https://t.co/G0WlPymYIr
— Mark Winne (@MarkWinneWSB) February 3, 2019
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.
a couple days ago 21 savage adds an extra verse on the live performance of “A lot” speaking on flint and immigration. today he is arrested by ICE with claims that he is from the U.K. ay man i’m not saying this a set up but it’s highly questionable. pic.twitter.com/qyfYl7CmPk
— rapsody stan account. (@goldlinkjonny) February 3, 2019
21 Savage rapped about the immigration issue at the boarder and the Flint Michigan water crisis on The Tonight Show
5 days later, he got arrested by the ICE because his visa expired 14 years ago. He is expected to be deported back to the UK.
— Bada (@BADAOLUWAFEMI) February 3, 2019
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.
If he came here on a visa at 12, he came with somebody. The story is already being written as if he was a grown ass man with nefarious reasons for entering the US & “lying” about his background. He was a child. But you’d have to see Black children as capable of being children…
— Tina Vasquez (@TheTinaVasquez) February 4, 2019
y’all don’t want us to think you’re anti black but y’all say shit like this https://t.co/0JmrQZnOKE
— lord petty flacko jodye (@localblackgirl) February 4, 2019
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.
ALL THE MEMES AND SHIT AINT FUNNY WHEN SOMEBODY GOING THROUGH SOME
PRAYING FOR MY DAWG
AINT SHIT FUNNY HIS FANILY
DEPENDING ON HIM
— OFFSET (@OffsetYRN) February 4, 2019
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.