By Elijah Gonzalez
When 21 Savage was arrested and threatened with deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Atlanta earlier this year, many fans were shocked to learn that the two-time Grammy-nominated rapper, was actually born in London, under the name of She’yaa bin Abraham-Joseph. According to ICE officials, 21 Savage entered the country legally as a minor in July 2005, but did not return to England when his visa expired. His lawyers say he entered earlier.
But truth be told, 21 Savage’s experience is similar to that of many black immigrants who have come to the United States without proper documentation. According to Pew Research, Black immigrants are more likely to face deportation as a result of a criminal conviction than other immigrants.
“It is just weird to me that he’s getting so much attention, like he is the only black person that ever got deported in the U.S., we have to educate ourselves more,” said Lakisha Roberts, a social worker and a fan. She has a point.
Black immigrants are racially profiled and face a more difficult immigration process, according to Pew Research. Since 2000 alone, the number of black immigrants living in the country has risen 71percent, to 4.2 million black immigrants, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition, 7 percent of non-citizens in the U.S. are black, but make up 20 percent of those facing deportation on criminal grounds, according to the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.
And 21 Savage isn’t the first hip-hop star to find himself facing down immigration officers. Rapper Slick Rick (Richard Walters), served six years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of attempted murder in 1999. In 2001, he was arrested and placed into deportation proceedings until 2008, when he was pardoned by then Gov. David A. Paterson. He was granted U.S. citizenship in 2016. Similarly, Jamal Michael Barrow, a young Sean Combs protégé then known as Shyne, was deported Belize, where he was born, after completing a sentence for attempted murder in 1999.
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration, an advocacy group for black immigrants has found that Latin Americans are not the only immigrant group attempting to enter the United States from the southern border. In recent years, border patrol has also been detaining and deporting more families from the Caribbean and from Africa. Then Muslim ban is in part responsible for the 140 percent jump in the number of removals to 1815 from African countries as the numbers from Mexico and El Salvador have decreased, according to 2017 data from ICE. The immigrants from Somalia, Nigeria and Ghana are primarily affected.