21 Sav­age on ICE ar­rest: ‘I didn’t know what a visa was. I was 7.’


Af­ter spend­ing nine days in ICE cus­tody, rap­per 21 Sav­age told his side of the story Fri­day on ABC’s “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica.”

The At­lanta mu­si­cian who was born in Eng­land aimed to clear up mis­in­for­ma­tion about his case fol­low­ing his Feb. 3 ar­rest by Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agents. He was ap­pre­hended be­cause he al­legedly over­stayed a visa that ex­pired in July 2006.

“I was just driv­ing. And I just seen guns and blue lights. And then I was in the back of a car. And I was gone,” he said on “GMA.” “They didn’t say noth­ing. They just said, ‘We got Sav­age.’”

Sav­age, 26, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abra­ham-Joseph, said he ar­rived in the U.S. when he was 7 years old and at­tended first grade in At­lanta, so he has lim­ited mem­o­ries of his na­tive coun­try. He left briefly in 2005 to at­tend his un­cle’s fu­neral, then re­turned that same year.

“I didn’t know what a visa was,” he said. “I was 7 when I first came here. I knew I wasn’t born here, but I didn’t know what that meant as far as when I tran­si­tioned into an adult, how that was go­ing to af­fect my life.

“I wasn’t hid­ing it, but it’s like, I didn’t want to be de­ported, so I wasn’t go­ing to come out and be like, ‘By the way I wasn’t born here,’ to the world.”

The rap­per now con­sid­ers him­self a “Dreamer,” a per­son who has lived in the U.S. with­out of­fi­cial au­tho­riza­tion since com­ing to the coun­try as a mi­nor.

“I don’t think the pol­icy is bro­ken,” he said. “I feel like the way that they en­force the pol­icy is bro­ken.”

The rap­per has gained high-pro­file sup­port from the mu­sic in­dus­try, namely that of rap­per Jay-Z, who pro­vided ad­di­tional le­gal as­sis­tance to 21 Sav­age, much like he did with em­bat­tled rap­per Meek Mill.

Sav­age was sup­posed to at­tend the Gram­mys Sun­day, where he was nom­i­nated for two awards and was to per­form the hit “Rock­star” with Post Malone.

A de­mon­stra­tion was staged near the red car­pet to show sup­port for the mu­si­cian, whose or­deal went largely un­ac­knowl­edged dur­ing the Gram­mys tele­cast. (Malone wore a 21 Sav­age T-shirt dur­ing the show and, upon ac­cept­ing his award for “This Is Amer­ica,” Swedish com­poser Lud­wig Go­rans­son said the rap­per “should be here tonight.”)

“I’ve been here 20 years, 19 years, this is all I know,” Sav­age said Fri­day. “I don’t feel like you should be ar­rested and put in a place where a mur­derer would be just for be­ing in the coun­try too long.”

Lawyers for 21 Sav­age said he was tar­geted be­cause of a lyric crit­i­cal of im­mi­gra­tion in his song “A Lot.”

“We be­lieve, hon­estly, that he was tar­geted, of course, like they said,” lawyer Alex Spiro said on “GMA.” “And part of the rea­son, we think, is both be­cause he’s a celebrity, and they can use this as a way to send a mes­sage, and also, per­haps, be­cause of his mu­sic.”

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