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Rapper 21 Savage granted bond in Atlanta

Musician to be released from immigration detention Wednesday

Rapper 21 Savage was granted a $100,000 bond during a closed hearing in Atlanta on Tuesday and will be released from immigration detention Wednesday, according to his attorneys. 

The rapper, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was taken into custody earlier this month. Federal immigration officials say he’s a U.K. citizen who overstayed his visa.  

His bond decision came amid increasing national attention surrounding his case — in Congress and in Hollywood — and as lawmakers raced to avert another federal government shutdown over immigration enforcement policy. 

“He won his freedom,” his attorneys declared in a statement. “21 Savage asked us to send a special message to his fans and supporters — he says that while he wasn’t present at the Grammy Awards, he was there in spirit and is grateful for the support from around the world and is, more than ever, ready to be with his loved ones and continue making music that brings people together.”  

In-depth: Rapper 21 Savage, high-profile ICE detainee, expected to miss Grammys

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement opposed 21 Savage’s release, according to Charles Kuck, one of the rapper’s attorneys. An ICE spokesman declined to comment on the case. But he issued a statement in response to a group of the musician’s supporters who demonstrated outside of the Immigration Court as the hearing took place. They called for his release and advocated for ICE’s abolition. 

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement fully respects the Constitutional rights of all persons to peacefully express their opinions,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said. “That said, ICE remains committed to performing its immigration enforcement mission consistent with federal law and agency policy.”  

Atlanta Immigration Judge J. Dan Pelletier closed Tuesday’s hearing at the request of ICE and 21 Savage because the rapper is applying for a visa that allows crime victims to remain legally in the U.S., according to Kuck, who declined to elaborate. Meanwhile, the deportation case is still pending and may not be resolved for a couple of years, Kuck added, so he will seek a federal work permit in the meantime. 

21 Savage — who has been held in the Irwin County Detention Center in South Georgia — appeared at the hearing in Atlanta on Tuesday wearing an orange detention center uniform. His wife and mother also attended.  

“Judge Pelletier was gracious and, after hearing testimony and arguments from both sides, he weighed the factors and determined my client is not a flight risk or a danger to our community, like we have been saying for nine days,” Kuck said. 

The rapper spoke “powerfully” about his life in court, Kuck added.  

“He was persuasive. He really presented himself as who he is, which is a very good young man,” Kuck said. “He has come through this with an extraordinary amount of dignity.” 

Outside the court building, a group of more than a dozen demonstrators unfurled a large pink banner that said “Abolish ICE,” while announcing they had gathered 450,000 petition signatures demanding 21 Savage’s freedom.  

February 12, 2019 Atlanta - In order to clear a pathway outside the Atlanta Immigration Court, a gaurd kicks aside several boxes with more than 445,000 petition signatures demanding the release of 21 Savage. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested the Grammy-nominated rapper the morning of February 3, claiming that he is actually from the United Kingdom and overstayed his visa. Ten organizations, including Color Of Change, delivered more than 445,000 petition signatures demanding the release of 21 Savage. RYON HORNE / RHORNE@AJC.COM

“It is completely unjust and a human violation. He has been living in this country since he was a young child,” said Clarise McCants, criminal justice campaign director at Color of Change, a racial justice organization. “What is happening to She’yaa right now is happening to black undocumented folks across this country.” 

In December, 21 Savage’s album “I Am > I Was” album was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. His debut solo album, “Issa Album,” hit No. 1 in July 2017.  

More: Who is 21 Savage

Monday, on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, rap producer Metro Boomin wore a “Free 21 Savage” coat on stage as he performed “Space Cadet” live with fellow music artist, Gunna. Also, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, issued a statement about 21 Savage’s detention, saying she was closely following his case.  

“Often individuals arrested by ICE while pursuing lawful status, individuals who are held without bond who pose no threat nor flight risk, are not well known,” she said. “I hope that because of his status as a public figure that we can shed further light on the policies and procedures of the Department of Homeland Security and that She’yaa (21 Savage) can appear as a witness before our subcommittee to help draw attention to these issues.” 

Over the weekend in Los Angeles, several artists referenced 21 Savage at the Grammy Awards and related music events.  

Atlanta-based super-producer Dallas Austin, on the red carpet before Clive Davis’ Pre-Grammy Gala Saturday night, said he believes 21 Savage is a casualty of “bad timing.” 

“It’s a shame he got caught up in something that’s happening in America, period. The movement that’s happening anyway with Trump with the borders and the walls and him trying to prove a point about immigration, it’s just a bad time,” Austin said. “He’s a good kid. He did change himself, he did make a career for himself; he did try to do something positive. If it wasn’t for the timing, I don’t think it would be as elevated as it is. … It’s just an unfortunate situation.”  

21 Savage was also a minor part of Childish Gambino’s double Grammy-winning song, “This is America,” and co-writer and producer Ludwig Göransson mentioned the rapper when he accepted the awards during the telecast. 

“21 Savage should be here tonight,” Göransson said.  

Backstage, he added that he didn’t know enough about 21 Savage’s current situation to comment further, but believed the rapper should have been allowed to attend the show. 

Staff writer Melissa Ruggieri contributed to this report.

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