21 Savage’s detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement was arguably one of the most high-profile immigration-related arrests during Trump’s tenure, and after 10 days in custody, the Atlanta rapper was released on $100,000 bond on last week. Savage is a United Kingdom national whose visa expired in 2006, and he is now facing deportation. His case has sparked an outpouring of celebrity support and renewed attention on the country’s broken immigration system, especially as it affects black immigrants in the United States.
In one of the first interviews since his release, the rapper born She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph spoke to The New York Times about his status and experience in detention. Many believe Savage was targeted by ICE after his appearance on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon in late January, where he performed a rendition of his song “A Lot” with a new verse about family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a conversation with Times critic Jon Caramanica, Savage said he discovered his immigration status when he was a teenager. Growing up, Abraham-Joseph’s family couldn’t qualify for government assistance given their status. “We struggled but we couldn’t get food stamps,” he told the Times. “We couldn’t get government assistance. I learned how to live without.”
He also said that despite his wealth, he is still subject to similar treatment by ICE. “Even if you got money, it ain’t easy. It ain’t no favoritism…It would be kind of messed up if they treated rich immigrants better than poor immigrants, I think.”
As several activists and prominent celebrities have pointed out, 21 Savage’s case sheds a light on the everyday experience of other undocumented immigrants in this country, regardless of background. Savage said he feels a responsibility to use his platform to speak up about these issues. “My situation is important ’cause I represent poor black Americans and I represent poor immigrant Americans,” he said. “You gotta think about all the millions of people that ain’t 21 Savage that’s in 21 Savage shoes.”
Read the full interview here.