US immigration officials may be targeting rapper 21 Savage because he condemned their behaviour in a new song, his lawyers have suggested.
The British-born, Grammy-nominated musician was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia, by US Immigration And Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Sunday for overstaying his visa.
ICE says 21 Savage, whose real name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is a British national who moved to the States aged 12 in 2005.
21 Savage’s legal team has now suggested ICE arrested him after he rapped about them in his new song A Lot. Lyrics for the track reference migrant children being separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border.
A statement released on Tuesday and signed by his six-strong legal team states: “There continues to be no legal reason to detain Mr Abraham-Joseph for a civil law violation that occurred when he was a minor, especially when people in his exact situation are routinely released by ICE.
“Many have speculated as to possible ulterior motives for his arrest and detention, including that he released music five days prior to his arrest by ICE, which included new lyrics condemning the behaviour of immigration officials for their detention of children at the border.
“We are unaware of why ICE apparently targeted Mr Abraham-Joseph, but we will do everything possible to legally seek his release and pursue his available relief in immigration court.”
London-born 21 Savage’s lawyers say he first arrived in the US aged seven and remained there until June 2005, when he returned to the UK for about a month.
He arrived back in the US in July 2005, they said. His lawyers say he lost his legal immigrant status in 2006 “through no fault of his own” and should be eligible to fight his removal from the country in court.
21 Savage, 26, has three children who are US citizens, his legal team say, as well as his mother being a lawful resident and four siblings who are either permanent residents or citizens.
The rapper, who is still in detention in Georgia, has “exceptionally strong ties” to his adopted country, they argue.
And he is in the process of obtaining a U visa – a visa for victims of crime – because he was the victim of a deadly shooting in 2013, the statement adds.
ICE should release 21 Savage from custody and delay his removal from the country while he awaits to hear back on the visa, they said.
They also dispute ICE’s claim that the rapper has a criminal conviction.
ICE has been contacted for comment. 21 Savage is nominated for two Grammy Awards at this weekend’s ceremony, including record of the year for the chart-topping track Rockstar with fellow rapper Post Malone.