Once Upon a Dreamer

- By Zack O’Malley Greenburg

Rapper 21 Savage headlines a list of Forbes Under 30 alumni who grew up undocument­ed—and are now inspiring change to help their peers.

Aweek after taking shots at President Trump’s immigratio­n policies on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show last January, Grammy-nominated rapper She’yaa “21 Savage” Bin Abraham-Joseph was detained for ten days by U.S. Immigratio­n & Customs Enforcemen­t. Born in the U.K., Abraham-Joseph moved to Atlanta at age 7 with his family and had overstayed his original visa by many years. “He’s a gangster,” the 27-year-old performer said of the president in an October interview with Forbes. “He don’t give a damn.”

21 Savage, a member of the 2019

Forbes Under 30, is a “Dreamer”—one of an estimated 3.6 million people living in the U.S. after having arrived undocument­ed as a youth. Among them are nearly 800,000 who, by meeting any of a number of criteria (military service, a high-school diploma, no criminal record and more), were approved for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA)—an initiative that Trump, who recently called some Dreamers “no longer very young” and “very tough, hardened criminals,” wants to shut down. The Supreme Court will likely decide their fate next year.

“Despite the fact that so many people want to see us fail, we are thriving,” says Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca, 30, a Dreamer from the Forbes Under 30 class of 2016.

“We are becoming doctors, teachers, lawyers, engineers, entreprene­urs and so many other amazing things.”

Including hip-hop stars. For sure, 21 Savage has it better than most of his cohort. His average nightly concert gross was about $50,000 around the time of his detention; it has doubled since, as he has become a cause célèbre. “I’m an example,” 21 Savage says. “People who didn’t think it affected certain people can say, ‘Wow, it affected

him. Who would’ve ever thought that?’ ”

Shown at right are a handful of

Forbes Under 30 alumni who grew up undocument­ed—and what they’re doing to elevate Dreamers nationwide.

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