It didn’t take long for #free21Savage to start trending on Twitter and attracting prominent support. An online petition demanding his release has logged more than 200,000 virtual signatures.
“Mr. Abraham-Joseph has been in the United States since he was a young child,” reads the petition, created by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors and supported by various other organizations. “Atlanta is his home. He has no current or prior criminal convictions and he is beloved by his friends, fans and family. It is shameful that he and so many Black immigrants are separated from their families on a daily basis as part of the US's heartless and racist immigration policies.”
In a statement released Tuesday evening, his legal team said Abraham-Joseph was born in the United Kingdom and came to the United States at 7. He returned to the United Kingdom for about a month in 2005, then came back to the U.S., the statement says.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Abraham-Joseph lost his legal status through no fault of his own,” the statement says. “Mr. Abraham-Joseph, like almost 2 million of his immigrant children peers, was left without immigration status as a young child with no way to fix his immigration status.”
The statement goes on to say Abraham-Joseph “has no criminal convictions or charges under state or federal law” and that “ICE provided incorrect information to the press when it claimed he had a criminal conviction.”
Federal authorities say Abraham-Joseph was convicted of felony drug charges in 2014 in Fulton County.
“We’re not going to provide anything else on this,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said in response.
Asked for clarification, Fulton County cited the section of the Georgia code that deals with restricting access to first-offender records: “In accordance with Georgia Code Section 42-8-62.1 this case was sealed and we cannot confirm or deny any information about the disposition of the matter.”
“ICE had no encounter with him at the time,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox said. “We didn’t get him in 2014 because we weren’t made aware.”
ICE arrested the artist, whose given name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, on Sunday morning, saying he is from the United Kingdom and overstayed his visa. He remains in immigration custody.
In a statement, Abraham-Joseph’s attorneys say it’s not his fault he’s in the country unlawfully. He was 12 when he came here with family in 2005. His visa expired the next year.
“This is a civil law violation, and the continued detention of Mr. Abraham-Joseph 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,” the statement from Charles Kuck and Holly Baird reads.
21 Savage fans and supporters - including prominent voices like DJ Khaled - agree.