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Lawyer was brought in thanks to Jay-Z and Roc Nation.
It’s been four days since 21 Savage was arrested by U.S, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), who claimed the “Bank Account” MC overstayed an expired visa after moving to America from the United Kingdom at 7-years-old. The rapper, born Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, still remains in the custody of border authorities without bond, where he’s reportedly being held in lockdown for 23 hours a day.
Numerous prominent artists have stepped up to spread awareness as part of the expanding #Free21Savage movement. Jay-Z added his name to that list on Wednesday (Feb. 6). Hov, a staunch supporter of criminal justice reform, used his platform and Roc Nation’s resources in an effort to help expedite the process of freeding 21 from detention.
“The arrest and detention of 21 Savage is an absolute travesty, his U-visa petition has been pending for 4 years,” Jay said in a statement. “In addition to being a successful recording artist, 21 deserves to be reunited with his children immediately, #Free21Savage”
Going beyond words, Jay also enlisted heavyweight attorney Alex Spiro as an addition to 21’s legal team. The Harvard graduate has represented Jay-Z himself, as well as many other high-profile athletes and A-list celebs (Bobby Shmurda, DeMarcus Cousins, Mick Jagger) in the past. Billboard caught up with Spiro to discuss what’s next in the case, the 26-year-old’s legal history, his chances of remaining in America and what fans can do to help.
How did you get involved with 21 Savage’s case?
Roc Nation called me and wanted to bring in some legal help on the matter to fix this. Their philanthropic arm — people from the walks of the NBA and political circles — have all been very concerned about this. These people are in a position to add some legal muscle to the situation and they’re willing to.
What’s the latest you can tell us? Why is he still locked up?
He shouldn’t be [locked up]. This is a travesty. We’re talking about someone who overstayed a visa with an open visa application that’s been pending for years. We’re not talking about a situation where we have a convicted felon, who needs to be detained and deported. We’re talking about a young man, father and entertainer. He has a singular offense for possession of marijuana, which has been vacated. There’s no reason he should be in jail.
Immigration experts previously told us that expunged convictions — even when removed from a person’s record under Georgia state law — are typically still considered convictions for federal immigration purposes.
Correct, and we dispute that determination. Even if he were to have a conviction under immigration law, then doesn’t necessarily follow that he shouldn’t be bonded out or released under certain conditions, so this could be properly investigated.
What are the chances that you believe he ends up staying in the United States?
I fully expect for him to be released. When he is, we will continue the process of making sure his visa is approved. That will end this saga. The lessons that will come from it and what our immigration law should be focused on is the bigger question. My sole focus, at the moment, is to fix this urgent situation because he’s locked up. Then we’re going to look deeper into what happened.
Is this normal protocol as far as the process and it taking this long to get him out?
It’s normal [for it to take this long] when the system doesn’t work, which is way too often. This is another example of shining the light on it. I think there were some misunderstandings at the front-end. I wasn’t there when this took an unfortunate turn.
Do you believe 21 Savage was the target of an operation carried out by ICE, which has been widely reported?
There’s no reason to think he would be the target of anything other than being a casualty of a broken system. We should all be asking questions about what priorities the U.S. government is taking with immigration generally. Cases that gather international attention serve as a good starting point to have the conversation. [Read More Billboard News]