Jay-Z has voiced support for the rapper21 Savage, who has been detained by US immigration officials for living in the country under an expired visa.
Jay-Z called the detention “an absolute travesty. His U visa petition has been pending for 4 years. In addition to being a successful recording artist, 21 deserves to be reunited with his children immediately.” He added the hashtag #Free21Savage, which was launched by the Black Lives Matter movementearlier this weekand received support from other rappers including Cardi B and Post Malone.
Alex Spiro, Jay-Z’s lawyer, has been appointed to assist in 21 Savage’s case. “We are not going to stop until he is released, bonded out or in front of a judge,” Spiro told Variety. “What we have here is someone who overstayed their visa with an application pending for four years – not a convicted criminal that needs to be detained and removed but, by all accounts a wonderful person, father, and entertainer who has a marijuana offense which was vacated and sealed.”
It emerged that weekend that 21 Savage (real name Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph),isa British national. His representatives have since said that he was born in the UK, moved to the US aged seven, and that his legal status there expired in 2006. They allege that once 21 Savage discovered his status had lapsed, he applied for a visa.
His representatives also argue that he can apply for a “cancellation of removal” given his ties to the US: “Mr. Abraham-Joseph has three US citizen children, a lawful permanent resident mother and four siblings that are either US citizens or lawful permanent residents. He has exceptionally strong ties in the United States, having lived here since he was in the first grade.”
They add that he is eligible for bail, an argument also made by Jay-Z’s label Roc Nation, which posted the message: “Person only charged as ‘visa overstay’ is bond eligible. 21 Savage should be released immediately
Carolyn Bernucca is a writer/editor Via The ComplexOn Wednesday, Feb. 6,
In an official statement, JAY-Z says, “The arrest and detention of 21 Savage is an absolute travesty, his U visa petition has been pending for 4 years. In addition to being a successful recording artist, 21 deserves to be reunited with his children immediately, #Free21Savage.”
To assist in the cause, JAY-Z and Roc Nation have enlisted New York attorney Alex Spiro, who has represented JAY-Z, Bobby Shmurda, Mick Jagger, DeMarcus Cousins, and Aaron Hernandez, among others.
“We’re looking at this issue from all facets,” Spiro tells Complex. “We’re not going about this in one way alone. There are many decision makers who can authorize [21’s] release, his bond, and his opportunity to handle this situation at liberty. So we’re going at each and every one of them, and we’re not going to stop until is out. My goal today is to get him out,” he adds. “My goal tomorrow is to figure out what went wrong here.”
We spoke with Spiro about the next steps for the case, and the implications of his detainment in the larger scope of U.S. immigration policy and practices. The interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, is below.
Can you tell me a bit about your background? I’m a former New York persecutor, Manhattan prosecutor. I’ve worked in private practice and I teach and do other things, and I’ve represented a lot of people, including Mr.Carter. People reached out to me and asked if I would help. This is very important to Mr. Carter and Roc Nation, so I looked into it, saw what was happening, and said, “Of course I’ll help.”
What is the plan from here? We’re looking at this issue from all facets. We’re not going about this in one way alone. There are many decision makers who can authorize [21’s] release, his bond, and his opportunity to handle this situation at liberty. So we’re going at each and every one of them, and we’re not going to stop until he is out.
My goal today is to get him out; my goal tomorrow is to figure out what went wrong here.
WE HOPE THAT ONCE HE IS RELEASED, THAT WE DON’T ALL FORGET ABOUT THIS, AND WE CONTINUE TO MONITOR AND THINK ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO DON’T HAVE THE SAME RESOURCES HE HAS.
What are those facets? There’s a pending visa application that should have been granted, and granted long ago. There is misperception about his [criminal] status and his prior case. There are many individuals and entities within the chain of command in the U.S. government who have the ability to use their discretion and to release him.
You can confirm that 21’s prior conviction has been expunged, and therefore should not be applicable to this case? It’s been vacated, correct.
How fast are things moving right now? Fast.
How does 21’s case differ from others that you’ve seen or dealt with? This is a miscarriage of justice. The reality is these things happen all the time. It’s only when there is a person of prominence or whom the public takes an interest in that the light is shined on these issues. We hope that once he is released, that we don’t all forget about this, and we continue to monitor and think about the people who don’t have the same resources he has.
Would you say that 21 is being treated the same way as pretty much anyone else? The way that people are incarcerated in this country is inhumane. I can’t tell you that his experience differs from others. It certainly differs in its notoriety, but in the conditions that he is in and the mistakes the system makes, I think that’s par for the course.
I can’t speak to the nameless people we don’t pay attention to, who get picked up at the border, or because of visa issues, or clerical errors or otherwise, on a day-to-day basis. I don’t know the statistics on that, but I fear that it’s far, far more common than we realize.
In the statement that was released yesterday, 21’s legal team said that he should be eligible for cancellation of removal. Who is normally eligible for that, and how often does that happen? He is not mandatorily deportable, and in situations such as this one, the immigration services can release him, bond him, use electronic monitoring, or any other mechanism so that he can be at liberty and deal with the issues regarding his immigration status. It’s possible, and because it’s possible, we are demanding that it be done.
Why do you think that bond is not being made available to him right now? Give me a day.
If it is found that ICE has made mistakes in this detainment, and is [intentionally] misreporting things, will they face consequences for these mistakes? What would likely happen? Like I said, our sole focus right now is getting him out. When that’s done and I have a little bit more time to investigate every part of this that went wrong… We have no intention of getting him out and pretending like this never happened. Our intentions are to get him out, and figure out what went wrong, and figure out how this can be a lesson that helps a lot of people, not just him.
THERE ARE MANY INDIVIDUALS AND ENTITIES WITHIN THE CHAIN OF COMMAND IN THE U.S. GOVERNMENT WHO HAVE THE ABILITY TO USE THEIR DISCRETION AND TO RELEASE HIM.
What are the greater implications of someone with wealth and status and legal cushion, like 21, being detained like this? Should this be causing alarm? It should be causing alarm when this happens to anybody, but the public can relate  to it. Until it affects you directly, or a family member of yours directly, it’s one of those things that for many people is out of sight, out of mind. But because he’s so beloved by his fan base and because the media is playing attention to this, people who don’t even have a direct connection to him feel like he feels right now.
So they have empathy and sympathy, and they’re overcome with a sense of a need for justice. What we want to be able to do, hopefully, is make it so that people feel that way about everybody that gets mistreated by the system. That’s my hope.
When he wins his freedom, we shouldn’t be so quick to forget about it. That’s the thing that I think people don’t fully appreciate. Our attention span is way, way too short for the suffering that people go through. I represented somebody named Pedro Hernandez. If you don’t know the case you should check it out. When he was released and we won, I think that everybody thought about it for a day—which is a long time, more than most people. But that kind of pain and suffering that people feel after they’ve been caged, doesn’t [go away] for years and years and years. That would be the thing that I would impress upon anybody who [asks], “How can we care about this differently, or more?”