21 Savage’s detainment, release sparks student discussion

Celesia Smith

In 2018, ICE removed, on average, 700 undocumented immigrants from the U.S. every day. 21 Savage, a 26-year-old British-born rapper who calls Atlanta home, currently faces the same fate as the 256,000 immigrants who were deported last year.

21 Savage, formally known as Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was taken into custody by law enforcement on Sunday, Feb. 3. The young rapper was released this Wednesday on bond. News of 21’s detainment and release has since made dozens of headlines and sparked many questions throughout his fanbase and beyond.

Connor O’Neill, Plan II and government sophomore, said 21’s detainment came as a shock because of his status as an Atlanta-based rapper similar to Childish Gambino and Gucci Mane. O’Neill said that these deep U.S. roots, made apparent in various lyrics, play a part in his opinion regarding 21’s potential deportation.

“(21 Savage) constantly references Atlanta. Even the 21 in his name is an homage to a group in Atlanta,” O’Neill said. “All he really knows is Atlanta and the U.S. I think he’s got a strong case for staying here. It’s his home.”

Despite 21’s fame, his situation remains similar to thousands of others. Denise Gilman, director of immigration studies at the UT School of Law, said she followed the case closely. She said that it could be a catalyst for students to seek knowledge regarding immigration policy.

“(21’s case) shines a spotlight on a vast detention system that people don’t always know about,” Gilman said. “The fact that somebody with long-term connections and such a high profile was put into that situation shows how common it is for an individual immigrant to be detained.”

Gilman’s prediction rings true for some UT students. Robert San Soucie, Plan II and computer science sophomore, said 21’s case places a spotlight not only on the detention system, but also on ICE.

“(People) should look at what is happening with the 21 Savage case and think about those who aren’t multi-millionaires, who don’t have Jay-Z’s backing, who have next to nothing and are fleeing violence,” San Soucie said. “Before ICE was created, (the government) did not round up immigrants the way they do now.”

However, some students have different sentiments regarding 21’s detainment and ICE’s involvement.

Business freshman Mitchell Etter said 21’s case detainment is no different than any other, save for its high-profile nature.

“The case shows that (the immigration system) doesn’t discriminate socioeconomically,” Etter said. “(The government) should try to stick strictly to the laws they’ve written about immigration. I don’t think there should be any gray areas.”

If deported, 21 Savage could be barred from the U.S. for up to 10 years. Although seemingly severe, 21’s situation is comparable to many throughout the country. While students have differing opinions regarding immigration policy and 21’s situation, the immigration discussion continues.

“This case works as an avenue for people to get informed,” O’Neill said. “It’s just a microcosm of what is happening throughout the U.S. on a larger scale.”