What 21 Savage’s Detainment Has Taught Us

On Feb. 3, rapper 21 Savage was detained by ICE for overstaying his visa. On Feb. 13, after being held for 10 days, he was released on $100,000 bond.

Savage, originally named Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was born in England but came to the United States at seven years old and his visa expired in 2006, which came as a shock to many of his fans.

“I wasn’t hiding it, but I didn't want to get deported,” 21 Savage said in his interview with Good Morning America. "So I’m not just gonna come out and say I wasn't born here to the world.”

He was met with numerous blue lights flashing and guns being pointed at him as he was being pulled over and arrested that Sunday evening. Not telling him that he was under arrest, they proceeded to put him in the back of the police car saying that they got him. He felt his arrest was targeted, as he explained on Good Morning America, Friday morning.

The Department of Homeland Security has been aware he has been living here a while, and Savage also applied for his visa to become a permanent resident in 2017.

Savage’s situation is similar to so many other immigrants living in this country today. For many, they aren't being given bonds to get out of ICE custody—they aren’t affluent like 21 Savage, and don't have access to proper legal care. It is an unfair justice system, where most are left to defend themselves, even children. ICE operates within their own definitions of the law and their history of abuse is nothing new, but the victim now is someone well-known and of status.

His initial arrest brought widespread media outcry in the form of memes and posts in support of him through his arrest. A petition, started by Patrisse Cullers, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, was created and received nearly half a million signatures in a few days. Artist Jay-Z has lended a helping hand in the form of a top notch legal team to get him out of the detention center and keep him in the country.

“I feel your pain, and I’m going to do everything in my power to try and bring awareness to your pain,” 21 said when asked about those still in detention centers.

While we celebrate his release, it's important to remember that his situation is not unique. Mothers, fathers and children are being held in similar conditions. As reported by CBS News, a study by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) reveals that between October and November of 2018, immigration judges released just 43 percent of undocumented immigrants on bond. Overall in 2018, just 23.5 percent of undocumented immigrants from the United Kingdom, like 21 Savage, were released on bond.

With being detained, comes the possibility of being deported.  All deportees are subject to a 10 year ban from the United States, leaving other family members behind and not knowing when they will see them again.

21’s stardom and unfortunate arrest can at least open the eyes of a broader audience to U.S. immigration reform. His situation should be looked upon as a wake up call. He was brought here as a child, grew up here and has been integrated into American society, just like many immigrants today. And the surprise of his origins shows that we don't know who this could be affecting and that situations like his could happen to anyone.

What we can learn from this is that we cannot forget about the people who don't have the resources to fight for themselves in the criminal justice and immigration system. The people in these detention centers often go forgotten. We can now align ourselves as allies and help those fighting deportation. Steps toward that include donation to legal clinics dedicated to serving the undocumented, volunteer with organizations providing resources to vulnerable immigrant communities, show up to protests and rallies, and we can demand change. The final thing we can do, what 21 Savage’s arrest has taught us, is to keep paying attention.