Rapper 21 Savage released on bond from ICE detention in immigration case

The singer is a U.K. national who "like almost two million of his immigrant child peers, was left without immigration status" as a child with no way to fix it, his lawyers said.
Image: 21 Savage performs in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 14, 2018.
21 Savage performs in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 14, 2018.Erika Goldring / WireImage file

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Daniella Silva

Rapper 21 Savage was released on bond from a detention center in Georgia on Tuesday, more than a week after he was detained by immigration authorities, according to a statement from his legal team.

She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, a national of the United Kingdom, has been facing deportation since he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Atlanta last Sunday. The Grammy-nominated rapper was granted release on bond Tuesday, according to a statement from his representatives Charles Kuck, Dina LaPolt and Alex Spiro.

“In the last 24 hours, in the wake of the Grammy Awards at which he was scheduled to attend and perform, we received notice that She’yaa was granted an expedited hearing,” the statement said. “Today, 21 Savage was granted a release on bond. He won his freedom.”

One of the rapper's lawyers said on MSNBC's "The Beat with Ari Melber" that his celebrity helps put a face on the plight of immigration detainees.

"People can’t connect to the people at the border because they don’t know them," lawyer Alex Spiro said.

"And people can’t connect to the nameless faceless people that are incarcerated in this country — both in the criminal justice system or in the immigration system. And so when you have a celebrated person, people start to feel that they can connect with him."

Abraham-Joseph's attorneys said they had been working for the past nine days with ICE to clarify his legal standing, determine his eligibility for bond and "provide evidence of his extraordinary contributions to his community and society."

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

Abraham-Joseph, 26, still faces deportation and potentially a ban of at least 10 years against returning to the United States, according to immigration attorneys.

Last week, rapper Jay-Z hired Spiro to aid 21 Savage in his fight against deportation.

His legal team has said in previous statements that Abraham-Joseph arrived legally in the U.S. at the age of 7 and remained in the country until 2005, when he left for a one-month visit back to the U.K. He then returned to the U.S. under a H-4 visa in July 2005 and his legal status expired in 2006.

"Mr. Abraham-Joseph, like almost two million of his immigrant child peers, was left without immigration status as a young child with no way to fix his immigration status," his lawyers said.

Abraham-Joseph currently had an application pending for a U Visa as a victim of a crime, according to his attorneys. They argue he also has potential relief from deportation because he has lived in the U.S. for the last 20 years, has U.S.-born children and a mother who is a lawful permanent resident.

ICE said in a statement following Abraham-Joseph's arrest that the rapper was arrested "during a targeted operation" in the metropolitan Atlanta area and placed in removal proceedings before federal immigration courts.

ICE has said that Abraham-Joseph was convicted on felony drug charges in October 2014 in Fulton County, Georgia. His lawyers have said ICE was incorrect in claiming he had a criminal conviction.

That conviction record was expunged last year and sealed as part of the state's first-offender program, attorney Jacoby Hudson, who represented the rapper, told The New York Times.

A spokesperson for the Fulton County District Attorney's Office confirmed to NBC News that in accordance with Georgia's first-offender code, the case was "sealed and we cannot confirm or deny any information about the disposition of the matter."

Spiro said that the case related to a single offense for possession of marijuana.

"He is not convicted. He is not a criminal and that is why he is out," the lawyer said Tuesday.

Abraham-Joseph had been nominated for two awards at Sunday's Grammy Awards, including record of the year for the song "Rockstar." The rapper said through his legal team that while he was unable to attend the event, "he was there in spirit and is grateful for the support from around the world and is more than ever, ready to be with his loved ones and continue making music that brings people together."

"He will not forget this ordeal or any of the other fathers, sons, family members, and faceless people, he was locked up with or that remain unjustly incarcerated across the country," the statement said. "And he asks for your hearts and minds to be with them."

In June, Reuters reported that while in previous years ICE would have released many immigrants facing deportation who had little or no criminal history on bond, the agency has since been denying bond for many immigrants, pushing to keep them in detention for the duration of their cases. ICE declined to respond to claims it was more unwilling to provide bond under the Trump administration, saying such decisions were made on a case-by-case basis.

Janelle Griffith contributed.