U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson has written a letter to whichever immigration judge rules in the case of 21 Savage, the rapper arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Johnson, a Democrat who represents Georgia’s 4th District, has gotten to know 21 Savage through his charitable work and attended his back-to-school giveaway in August.
“This is the most important thing I do every year,” the artist, whose given name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, told the AJC at the time.
“He spends his time giving back to the community and supporting and promoting the betterment of our youth,” the letter reads. “He has been an outstanding figure and influence within his family and within Atlanta.”
Abraham-Joseph, 26, was arrested on Sunday and remains in immigration custody.
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 to the lawyers’ statement.
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.”
Johnson’s letter acknowledges straight away that Abraham-Joseph is not a U.S. citizen, but says the father of three is an exemplary citizen nonetheless.
“She’yaa was born outside of the United States and moved here at a very young age with his parents, sister and brother,” Johnson’s letter reads. “He was raised and spent his formative years in and around Atlanta, and he has developed deep family roots and personal ties to our wonderful state of Georgia, and to Gwinnett and DeKalb counties in particular. She’yaa’s immediate family members residing there include his mother, three sisters, two brothers and three children. She’yaa is the primary breadwinner for most of his siblings, and for his children.”
Here is Johnson’s compete letter: