Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage turned himself in to local authorities Thursday night to face allegations of drug and weapons possession from a well-publicized incident in early 2019 when immigration officials arrested him in an operation with Georgia authorities.
He was released on bond Thursday evening.
The rapper, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was taken into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers on Feb. 3, 2019. He was later released on bond following international attention over the arrest. At the time, ICE officials told local media that the rapper had been convicted of felony drug charges in 2014. His attorneys have said that the information was false, pointing out that the conviction was later vacated. ICE officials later dropped an aggravated felony charge against him in immigration court.
Earlier this month, a local magistrate court judge signed a warrant authorizing his arrest on suspicion of felony drug possession and weapons possession in Dekalb County, where the rapper turned himself in on Thursday evening. His tour, which he is headlining along with J. Cole, begins Friday in Miami.
His attorneys claim that he was not aware of the warrant, which was sought by DeKalb County authorities on Sep. 7, until Thursday. The warrant cites allegations that, during a stop the evening of the ICE arrest, the rapper threw out a bottle that had liquid in it that later tested positive for codeine, and that a handgun was found inside the car.
Since the night of the arrest, the government has pursued his deportation only on the grounds that he had come from the UK at the age of 7 and overstayed a visa, according to Charles Kuck, managing partner of Kuck Baxter Immigration, who represents the rapper.
Kuck said he believes that the arrest was made at the request of ICE officials. Agency officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday evening.
“The warrant appears to have been sought at the behest of ICE, as the warrant was issued in the eve of an Immigration Court hearing in Mr. Joseph’s deportation proceeding, and is based upon events that transpired on the evening that ICE arrested Mr. Joseph over 2 and one half years ago,” Kuck said in a statement.
A hearing over his immigration status is set for Nov. 1, and Kuck said ICE officials had refused to terminate the case. They say the rapper fits the parameters of guidelines issued to ICE prosecutors by the Biden administration that allow them to drop certain cases. Around the same time, ICE refused to drop the case, Kuck said, local police sought a warrant for his DNA.
“There can be no doubt that ICE is seeking to cover its own errors in detaining Mr. Jospeh by pushing trumped up charges against him and seeks to stop him from obtaining lawful permanent residence in the United States,” the statement added.
The rapper has been trying to gain a green card, which would afford him permanent residency and a path to citizenship, in recent months.
Since the moment of his arrest, his attorneys have said he had no conviction in state or federal court. Abraham-Joseph, they said, arrived in the country in 2005 on a valid visa and “lost his legal status” through no fault of his own. In the meantime, the rapper had applied for a U visa — which provides a pathway to legal status for people who are victims of crime and help law enforcement — in connection with a 2013 shooting, according to his attorneys. He has three children, who are US citizens.
“We are grateful for the efforts of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office for quickly processing and releasing Mr. Joseph,” Kuck said. “He will continue to fight for his right to seek permanent residence in the United States through the immigration court. We look forward to the day when ICE will play fairly with all those who seek justice within our immigration system.”