Rapper 21 Savage chides 'broken' US immigration enforcement

US rapper 21 Savage was released from ICE detention on February 13 ten days after he was taken into custody after his British citizen's visa expired in 2006. The rapper says he was definitely targeted by US immigration agents.
US rapper 21 Savage was released from ICE detention on February 13 ten days after he was taken into custody after his British citizen's visa expired in 2006. The rapper says he was definitely targeted by US immigration agents.
Image: ANGELA WEISS / AFP

Rapper 21 Savage on Friday said he was "definitely targeted" by US immigration agents who detained him earlier this month on the grounds he had been living stateside illegally.

"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," the artist born in Britain said in his first interview since he was released on $100,000 (R1413895.10) bond this week.

"They didn't say nothing. They just said, 'We Got Savage,'" the 26-year-old told ABC's Good Morning America program.

"I don't think the policy is broken," he said. "I think the way that they enforce the policy is broken."

21 Savage, whose real name is She'yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was arrested February 3 in the southern city of Atlanta by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who said he had been living in the United States illegally since overstaying a visa that expired in 2006, when he was a minor.

"I didn't even know what a visa was," said the Grammy-nominated rapper, who arrived legally in the US at age 7 and has stayed for nearly two decades, save for a brief trip to Britain in 2005 for his uncle's funeral.

"I knew I wasn't born here but I didn't know, like, what that meant as far as when I transitioned into adult," the rapper said.

"I wasn't hiding it but I didn't want to get deported, so I wouldn't say 'I wasn't born here.'"

Charles Kuck, one of 21 Savage's lawyers, told AFP his team is seeking to stay the rapper's immigration court proceedings while his application for a U-visa - for victims of crimes who have faced mental or physical abuse - is pending, and also seek "cancellation of removal."

That procedure allows someone with children - the rapper has three American kids -- who has lived in the United States more than 10 years to obtain a residency and work permit.

"He clearly is in deportation proceedings and to say that he's not at risk would be crazy, because he is, but we remain confident in our defense strategy," Kuck said.

The rapper's shock arrest has also brought to the fore once more the plight of "Dreamers" - 1.8 million immigrants brought to the US illegally as children through no fault of their own.

21 Savage - long considered a local act from Atlanta, the hip hop capital - said he has limited memories of Britain and doesn't consider it home.

"I'm from Atlanta, in my eyes," he said.

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