21 Savage exposes the immigration system


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Photo Courtesy of Hip Hop DX

Rohan Patel, Sports Editor

There are many British celebrities that have become popular in America: Ed Sheeran, Benedict Cumberbatch, and, surprisingly, 21 Savage. Apparently, the Atlanta-based rapper is, in reality, British-born, and only moved to Atlanta as a child. 21 Savage, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was born in London, England and moved with his family to Atlanta when he was only seven years old. Now aged 26, he has spent 19 years establishing himself as a premier rapper on the hip hop scene. He was scheduled to perform at the Grammys, but suddenly, his career came to a crashing halt when he was detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who claimed that Abraham-Joseph had overstayed his visa, and he now faces the possibility of deportation.

This unexpected action is a disgrace. Abraham-Joseph has been a resident of the United States for 19 years and never once during that time period was he alerted that his visa was expired, despite the fact that his visa had expired 13 years ago. Never mind the fact that this is a world-famous artist; if this happened to any person it would be a travesty. Now, Abraham-Joseph is not a fantastic person by any means, as he has had run-ins with the law multiple times. In seventh grade, he was expelled from every school in his district for possessing a gun. He was convicted of a drug felony in 2014. And in 2016, he was forced to alert police when his condo was robbed.

Yet interestingly enough, these incidents both strengthen his case and also highlights the faults of the immigration system. To begin with, ICE claims that Abraham-Joseph moved to the United States when he was 14. However, he was already in Atlanta when he was in seventh grade, likely when he was younger than 14, as evidenced by his expulsion from school. And he has supposedly outstayed his visa for 13 years, yet if he moved to Atlanta at the age of 14 as ICE suggests, he should definitely be older than 26 as his visa would not have expired as soon as he came to the United States. Claiming that Abraham-Joseph arrived at the age of 14 is one of the most ridiculous claims made by ICE, as it can be easily seen that their version of events is simply not mathematically possible.

Additionally, Abraham-Joseph’s repeated involvement with law officials suggests that he was unaware of his precipitous legal stance and reveals the lack of organization of law enforcement. How could no one have possibly ever realized that Abraham-Joseph was not a US citizen throughout his entire felony procedure? He was sentenced to 12 years of probation, too, and during that entire period of constant monitoring, he was never alerted of his immigration status. He even expunged his felony from his record and this legal action never raised any alarms. Perhaps most reflective of Abraham-Joseph’s innocence is his appeal to law enforcement to assist him when he was the victim of a robbery. There was no way a person with something to hide concerning their legal matters would ever contact law enforcement as the risks would be too dangerous.

Still, the most disgraceful part of this ordeal is not the missed chances nor the ignorance of law enforcement. What is most troubling is the fact that a black man with an aspiring career was taken into custody as if he were a dangerous criminal. In fact, Rolling Stone reports that he is being held in “one of the worst detention centers” in the United States. This detention center has a history of ignoring sexual abuse and often puts inmates in solitary confinement for even the most minor offenses, such as talking too much.

Abraham-Joseph was also originally denied bail, even though he poses absolutely no danger to the community nor any flight risk. While he does have a past of criminal history, at this point it is clear that his character has changed for the better. He has hosted back-to-school drives in Atlanta and has donated $10,000 to an anti-bullying campaign. He has made large efforts to teach students about financial literacy to ensure that they don’t take the same path that he did. Yet despite all his work in the community, law enforcement could not see fit to offer him bail, until Abraham-Joseph had spent over a week in the detention center and was able to post bail, though it cost him $100,000. He does have the drug felony, but that has been expunged, meaning his only legitimate crime is overstaying his visa, which is obviously not a violent crime and so he should not have had to spend a harrowing week in a terrible detention center.

Abraham-Joseph should never have been arrested and thrown into a detention center with no bail. He is a Grammy-nominated artist who has worked his way up to success in America and has given back to his community. Of course, he has to take the necessary steps to become a legal resident of the United States, but the actions that ICE chose to take were extreme. If he were a prim, white Brit, there is no chance he would have received the same treatment. But instead, he is a black man trying to better his life, and he will be forced to endure the treatment of a lowly criminal while facing deportation despite his immense talent. Issa shame.