Less than 24 hours after being released from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center, 21 Savage sat down with “Good Morning America” to set the record straight on his immigration arrest.
During his first interview since his release on $100,000 bond, the rapper, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, says he was “definitely targeted” by ICE. He was born in east London and moved to the U.S. when he was 7 years old. His visa expired 13 years ago and he reapplied for his U visa in 2017.
“I don’t think the policy is broken. I feel like the way they enforce the policy is broken,” said Savage, who missed his performance at the Grammys, where he was nominated for two awards.
He was driving in Atlanta on Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 3) when he was pulled over by cops. “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. “They didn’t say nothing. They just said, ‘We got Savage.'”
“It was definitely targeted,” said the 26-year-old, who came to the U.S. with his mother and brothers when he was 7 years old. “I didn’t know what a visa was. 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 it was gonna affect my life.”
He criticized immigration officials during his performance on “The Tonight Show” last month where he changed the lyrics to his hit “a lot.” “Been through some things but I can’t imagine my kids stuck at the border,” rapped Savage. “Flint still need water. People was innocent, couldn’t get lawyers.”
When asked if he thought that triggered his arrest, he responded, “My lawyers think that… I ain’t really know. I can’t really say. I would see why people would think that, but I can’t really say.”
In 2017, he applied to become a lawful permitted resident. “I’ve been here 20 years, 19 years, this is all I know. I don’t think you should be arrested and put in a place where a murderer would be for just being in the country for too long.”
He recalled his experience in ICE custody, where he spent 23 hours under lockdown in a cell. “I was like in one room all day,” said Savage.
Despite the circumstances, he remains hopeful about the future. “I been through so much in my life. I’ve learnt to embrace the times when I’m down ’cause they always build me up.”
His lawyers also revealed that they are attempting to secure his immigration status to make him a citizen, but it’s “very, very complicated.”
Savage’s No. 1 priority right now is to become a U.S. citizen. He has also pledged to help those who are going through similar situations. “I feel your pain and I’ma do everything in my power to try and bring awareness to your pain.”
There have been petitions and an outpouring of support from many in the hip-hop community including JAY-Z, who hired a legal team to help with his case. “There are a lot of things about this case that are curious and troubling,” said his lawyer Alex Spiro.
He faces deportation, but his team is confident for a positive outcome. “We’re confident and his fans should be confident that he’ll be able to remain here and we’re hoping that that will give hope to everybody else who fights these issues,” added Spiro.