In a statement released Tuesday evening, lawyers for rapper 21 Savage say U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement has released “incorrect information” about their client, specifically regarding whether he has a criminal history.
Federal authorities say the artist, officially known as Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was convicted of felony drug charges in 2014 in Fulton County. His lawyers say he “has no criminal convictions.”
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.”
“We’re not going to provide anything else on this,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said in response to the lawyers’ statement.
Here is the entire statement:
“There has been a great deal of misreporting in the case of She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, known professionally as 21 Savage. Conjecture and misinformation help no one make good decisions and lead to false conclusions. Here are the facts:
Mr. Abraham-Joseph was born in the United Kingdom. Mr. Abraham-Joseph arrived legally in the United States at the age of 7 under an H-4 visa. (This type of visa is issued to spouses and children 21 and younger of people who hold H 1-B visas, which allow foreign workers in specialty occupations).
He remained in the United States until June 2005, when he departed for approximately one month to visit the United Kingdom. He returned to the United States under a valid H-4 visa on July 22, 2005. Mr. Abraham-Joseph has been continuously present in the United States for almost 20 years, except for a brief visit abroad. Unfortunately, Mr. Abraham-Joseph lost his legal status through no fault of his own.
Mr. Abraham-Joseph, like almost 2 million of his immigrant child peers, was left without immigration status as a young child with no way to fix his immigration status. These ‘Dreamers’ come from all walks life and every ethnicity.
Mr. Abraham-Joseph has no criminal convictions or charges under state or federal law and is free to seek relief from removal in immigration court. ICE provided incorrect information to the press when it claimed he had a criminal conviction.
Mr. Abraham-Joseph has three U.S. citizen children, a lawful permanent mother and four siblings that are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. He has exceptionally strong ties in the United States, having lived here since he was in the first grade. Because of his length of residence in the United States and his immediate relatives, Mr. Abraham-Joseph is eligible to see cancelation of removal from an immigration judge.
Mr. Abraham-Joseph was placed into deportation proceedings AFTER his arrest, he was not in deportation proceedings prior to this detention by ICE. (The Department of Homeland Security) has known his address since the filing of a U visa application in 2017. He has never hidden from DHS or any of its agencies.
Mr. Abraham-Joseph is not subject to mandatory detention under federal law and is eligible for bond. By statute, bond should be granted by ICE when there is no flight risk or a danger to the community. ICE has the ability to set a bond and conditions of release on cases exactly like this. ICE routinely grants bond to individuals in Mr. Abraham-Joseph’s circumstances, specifically individuals who have overstayed a prior valid visa and have relief from deportation under federal law.
There is no chance that Mr. Abraham-Joseph is a flight risk. Mr. Abraham-Joseph is not a ‘danger’ to the community as his acts of philanthropy and goodwill, as well as his music, continue to improve the communities from which he comes.
Mr. Abraham-Joseph has a pending U visa application with (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). This U visa was filed as a result of being the victim of a deadly shooting in 2013. That visa was filed in 2017 and remains pending. When granted, the U visa will afford him lawful status in the United States. Generally, ICE has recognized a pending facially valid U visa as a basis to delay removal proceedings and release individuals from custody. (This type of visa is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity).
There continues to be no legal reason to detain Mr. Abraham-Joseph for a civil law violation that occurred when he was a minor, especially when people in his exact situation are routinely released by ICE.
Many have speculated as to possible ulterior motives for his arrest and detention, including that he released music five days prior to his arrest by ICE, which included new lyrics condemning the behavior of immigration officials for their detention of children at the border.
We are unaware of why ICE apparently targeted Mr. Abraham-Joseph but we will do everything possible to legally seek his release and pursue his available relief in immigration court.”
Note: text in the parenthetical explanations of the different types of visas comes from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and was not part of the legal statement.