US Rapper 21 Savage wasn’t able to perform during Sunday’s Grammys Awards – despite being nominated for two Grammys, including the sought-after best record award. Instead, the 26-year-old father of three – who moved to Atlanta, Georgia at age 7, and who is well-known for giving back to his community – was in US immigration detention.
The British-born star, whose given name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over a week ago as millions of people gathered to watch the football championship the Super Bowl. ICE states that Abraham-Joseph entered the US legally in July 2005, but overstayed his visa as a minor. His arrest evokes the experiences of immigrants of color across the country, deported from the places they call home, despite longstanding ties to the US.
Abraham-Joseph spent over a week in immigration detention awaiting removal proceedings. He was one of over 40,000 immigrants held in ICE detention each day – a detention system where poor medical care contributed to the deaths of at least 23 people since 2010. A recent inspector general report found that, despite ICE’s documentation of thousands of contractual violations by contractors, it only issued fines twice between October 2015 and June 2018. Abraham Joseph has been granted a release on bond, an option not available to many others.
As US legislators confer on appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security to avoid another government shutdown, Congress should grapple with the reality of how taxpayer dollars are already being spent. The US is locking up mothers, fathers, and spouses of US citizens, and tax-paying employees. Congress should reject the president’s efforts to expand this abusive system, and instead demand that it be fundamentally reformed.