Rapper 21 Savage arrested in U.S. on suspicion of being British

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Monday, February 4, 2019

The rapper 21 Savage, age 26, was arrested Sunday morning in Atlanta, Georgia, United States and placed in immigration detention. According to U.S. immigration officials, 21 Savage is a British national who overstayed his 2005 non-immigrant visa.

According to representatives of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 21 Savage, real name Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, entered the United States legally in 2005 on a non-immigrant visa that expired the following year. If his disclosed date of birth is accurate, he would have been around 12 at the time.

21 Savage performing in Texas in 2018.
Image: Ralph Arvesen.

According to 21 Savage's own representatives, he was born in England, brought to the U.S. at the age of seven. He has lived in the country ever since, except for one month in 2005, after which he returned under a non-immigrant visa.

21 Savage has a felony drug conviction from 2014, which was later expunged from his record. He applied for a legal visa in 2017.

"Mr Abraham-Joseph was taken into ICE custody as he is unlawfully present in the U.S. and also a convicted felon," ICE southern region spokesperson Bryan Cox told the press.

According to ICE and CNN, 21 Savage was in the car with another rapper, who was "the target of a criminal arrest." 21 Savage himself was taken into custody after law enforcement assessed his immigration status.

Sources differ on 21 Savage's place of birth, with some listing it as former British colony Dominica. 21 Savage's songs and public persona frequently reference growing up in East Atlanta, including exposure to and participation in gang activity. A large number of Twitter memes emerged following the announcement of his arrest, including jokes about dodging bullets not from Atlanta gangsters but from recoats, a term meaning Revolutionary-War-era British soldiers.

"We are working diligently to get Mr. Abraham-Joseph out of detention while we work with the authorities to clear up any misunderstandings," 21 Savage's lawyer Dina LaPolt told CNN. "Mr. Abraham-Joseph is a role model to the young people in this country, especially in Atlanta, Georgia, and is actively working in the community leading programs to help underprivileged youths in financial literacy."

21 Savage co-performed the song Rockstar, which was nominated for two 2019 Grammy awards.