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By Erik Ortiz
Rapper 21 Savage says he was “definitely targeted” by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while driving in metro Atlanta — and they even used a helicopter during the operation.
“I was just driving, and I just seen guns and blue lights. And then I was in the back of a car, and I was gone,” he told ABC News’ “Good Morning America” in his first interview since his release on bond Tuesday.
He also said that amid the chaos, no one told him why he was being arrested.
“They didn’t say nothing,” he added. “They just said, ‘We got Savage.'”
The Feb. 3 arrest of the Grammy-nominated rapper, who was born Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, initially confused fans who thought he was a United States citizen. In a 2016 interview with hip-hop magazine XXL, he said he was from Decatur, Georgia.
But ICE officials say Abraham-Joseph, 26, is a British national, and while he was brought to the U.S. legally as a child in 2005, his visa expired a year later and he was left without legal status.
His lawyers have suggested he was targeted under the Trump administration to send a message about illegal immigration, although ICE declined to comment.
Following Abraham-Joseph’s arrest, his attorney, Charles Kuck, acknowledged that the rapper and his family did overstay their visa, but he never tried to hide his immigration status.
“The Department of Homeland Security has known his address and his history since his filing for the U visa in 2017, yet they took no action against him until this past weekend,” Kuck said in a statement.
A U visa is for people who have been victims of certain crimes and have “suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Only 10,000 of the visas are made available each year, but it’s unclear the circumstances in which Abraham-Joseph applied for it.
He told “Good Morning America” that he was 7 when he came to the U.S. in 2005, and actually went back to the United Kingdom to attend an uncle’s funeral and then returned to the U.S. that same year.
“I didn’t even know what a visa was,” Abraham-Joseph said, adding that he considers himself a “Dreamer” — a nickname for the 700,000 young people who have avoided deportation because they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
But now, he said, he’s concerned about being deported. In addition, he faces a 10-year ban from reentering the U.S. — what would amount to a major blow for an artist whose career is on a meteoric rise.
He released his sophomore album in December and was nominated for two Grammy Awards this year.
“So it’s like, even if I’m sitting in a cell on 23-hour lockdown, in my mind, I know what’s going to come after that,” he said. “So I’m not happy about it. But I’m accepting of it.”