Atlanta Rapper 21 Savage Arrested By ICE, Who Claim He's Actually A UK Citizen

Immigration officials say the rapper, whose real name is Shayaabin Abraham-Joseph, entered the U.S. as a minor in 2005 and overstayed his visa.

By Eric Shorey

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has arrested rapper 21 Savage, claiming the artist is actually a citizen of the United Kingdom who has been living in the country illegally after overstaying his nonimmigrant visa.

ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox alleged that Savage, whose legal name is Shayaabin Abraham-Joseph, had entered the country legally in July of 2005 as a minor and that his visa had expired a year later. Cox confirmed the arrest was made in a targeted sting operation.

"Mr. Abraham-Joseph is presently in ICE custody in Georgia and has been placed into removal proceedings before the federal immigration courts," ICE said in a statement, according to CNN. "ICE will now await the outcome of his case before a federal immigration judge to determine future actions."

Dina LaPolt, a lawyer representing Abraham-Joseph, is now working for the musician's release.

"We are working diligently to get Mr. Abraham-Joseph out of detention while we work with the authorities to clear up any misunderstandings," LaPolt said in a statement. "Mr. Abraham-Joseph is a role model to the young people in this country, especially in Atlanta, Georgia, and is actively working in the community leading programs to help underprivileged youths in financial literacy."

Savage had previously been arrested on felony drug charges in October 2014. It is unclear why the question of his citizenship was not raised at that time.

Because 21 Savage had not discussed his citizenship status publicly, many fans on social media were shocked by the news of his arrest. The news spawned several memes, which were criticized by fellow rapper Offset and Vice's music outlet for their insensitivity. Singer Demi Lovato has shut down her Twitter account in response to the backlash she faced for saying she enjoyed the jokes about the arrest, according to People.

Savage had previously said he was raised in Atlanta, Georgia and his music discussed his upbringing and criminal past in that state. Abraham-Joseph had been considered a local by many in the area and had participated in charity events in the city through the Leading By Example Foundation, which gave out school supplies to 2,500 students in the summer of 2018, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Savage's debut album, "Issa Album," had debuted at number two on the Billboard charts in the summer of 2017 and has since been certified gold. After appearing as a guest on several other albums and releasing a critically acclaimed horror-themed collaboration with producer Metro Boomin and Offset, Savage's second album, titled "I Am > I Was" debuted at number one on the Billboard chart, where it remained for two consecutive weeks. The sophomore LP, which continued to discuss the artist's history of illegal activity, had received widespread general critical approval, according to Metacritic.

Savage has been nominated for two Grammy Awards this year for fellow rapper Post Malone's "Rockstar," on which he was featured.

[Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images]

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