By Anjali Natarajan
Recently, rapper 21 Savage has been in the news, and it is not for his music. After being detained by Immigration and threatened with deportation, he, along with his fan base, has been uncertain about his own future. His story sheds light on all the moving parts of immigration right now, as well as how his voice can help others in the same position.
The rise to fame with 21 Savage was with his mix tape, The Slaughter Tape, released in 2015. Since then, his singles and collaborations with artists like Post Malone have risen quite high, if not number one, on the charts. With this success, however, came scrutiny as well. The 26 year-old’s car was pulled over by Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents on February 3 in Atlanta, Georgia. DEA then gave him to U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) officials, and ICE started papers for deportation on the grounds of overstaying a visa that had expired in 2006. 21 Savage’s massive audience found out that he was not originally from Atlanta, as they had believed; rather, he was an immigrant from the United Kingdom. Currently, his proceedings are on hold, and no one is aware of when they might continue.
This story is reminiscent of many immigrants with the same issues, though 21 Savage has a bigger platform than many to speak about the problems that he and others face. With this platform, many activists are hoping that he can bring a new awareness and potentially even change to what they see as a broken system. According to Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, “much of how we are trained to think about immigration issuers in this country is that it’s a Latin X issue. Black immigrants are more likely to be detained than any other immigrant group solely because of their blackness.”
21 Savage is unlikely to be deported, as he has three U.S. born children and multiple members of his immediate family that are either citizens or lawfully residing. He also has been living in the U.S. for about 13 years and has taken steps to obtain a U visa before he was detained. Still, he says that his ICE detention was worse than when he went to jail, because with ICE there was a sense of “not knowing what was going to happen, or when it’s going to happen”.