Rapper 21 Savage's attorney said his surprising attest on Sunday by immigration officials is "based upon incorrect information."
The 26-year-old rapper, whose real name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials early Sunday morning because he allegedly overstayed his visa by more than a decade.
ICE spokesman Brian Cox told reporters 21 Savage is really an "unlawfully present United Kingdom national" who has been in the U.S. since 2005 with a visa, but it expired in 2006. Cox called the arrest part of a "targeted operation."
Abraham-Joseph's attorney, Charles H. Kuck, told WSB-TV that the rapper filed for a U-Visa in 2017 with the Department of Homeland Security, adding that his client "never hid his immigration status from the U.S. government."
"Based upon incorrect information about prior criminal charges and now refusing to release him on bond of any amount, despite the fact that he has a pending U-Visa application (as the victim of crime) with USCIS, and that he has relief from removal available to him," Knuck said in a statement. "Mr. Abraham-Joseph has never hid his immigration status from the US government."
According to Knuck, Abraham-Joseph's family overstayed their work visas and "like almost two million other children, was left without legal status through no fault of his own."
Knuck called Abraham-Joseph's arrest and detention a "civil law violation" that "serves no other purpose than to unnecessarily punish him and try to intimidate him into giving up his right to fight to remain in the United States."
"He rose above the difficult circumstances of his youth to achieve success and make contributions to our society that rival any of those by a natural born citizen," Knuck continued. "Mr. Abraham-Joseph has US citizen children that he supports and is eligible for relief from deportation. We and he will fight for his release, for his family, and his right to remain in our country. No one would expect less from him."
Abraham-Joseph's arrest came as a shock by fans because he billed himself as an Atlanta native whose lyrics reflected growing up in the city and had similarities to other local artists. His Wikipedia page even had Atlanta listed as his birthplace before his arrest Sunday. He was also arrested in Fulton County, Georgia, in 2014 on felony drug charges and has shared stories of his other experiences with crime. He claimed he was shot six times on his 21st birthday, which inspired his stage name. One of his brothers was also killed during an attempted drug deal.
The Daily Mail obtained his birth certificate, which lists his birthdate as Oct. 22, 1992 and revealed that he was born at Hewham Hospital in London. He was 12 years old when his British-born mother moved to the U.S., while his father stayed in the U.K.
21 Savage found mainstream success last year with "Rockstar," his collaboration with Post Malone. The song was nominated for the Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance Grammys. The track also won a Billboard Music Award and a MTV Video Music Award. He released his second studio album, I Am > I Was in December and the single "A Lot" in January.
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