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DJ Khaled Speaks Out Against ICE's Arrest of Rapper 21 SavageEXPAND
Photos by George Martinez for New Times / Ralph Arvesen via Wikimedia Commons

DJ Khaled Speaks Out Against ICE's Arrest of Rapper 21 Savage

Despite the growing movement to abolish or pare back ICE,  the extremely brilliant folks running the agency decided to arrest 21 Savage, one of America's most popular rappers. Yesterday, this sparked a gigantic backlash from some of the most famous celebrities on planet Earth. In a public service announcement posted by Mic.com, these stars — Kendrick Lamar, America Ferrera, SZA, Future, J.Cole, Common, T.I., Miguel, Yara Shahidi, Post Malone, and Miami's own DJ Khaled — castigated the agency for targeting immigrant families who don't appear to be doing anything wrong.

ICE, the artists say, is arresting thousands of immigrants who don't have the voice and resources of a 21 Savage.

"No person in this world deserves to be treated like this," Khaled says in the clip. "The time for change is now."

ICE arrested 21 Savage (born Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph) on February 3 — he was riding in a car in Atlanta with his cousin, a rapper named Young Nudy. Police pulled over Nudy's car and arrested both men mere hours before the Super Bowl began in that same town. As it turns out, 21 Savage's parents brought him to the United States from Britain when the musician was just 12 years old. He had a travel visa but overstayed it — making him undocumented and part of the "Dreamers" class brought to America by their parents before they turned 18.

While 21 Savage hadn't told his fans about the controversy before the arrest, immigration officials were aware of the situation for more than a year, the rapper's lawyers said. In 2017, the rapper applied for a "U-visa" — a special immigration grant for people who have been victims of crimes in the United States.

An ICE spokesperson almost immediately began badmouthing 21 Savage in the press for having a "false" backstory. Reporters who closely cover ICE noted the agency rarely speaks about individual cases, and that it's exceedingly unusual for ICE officials to publicly smear individual detainees.

Of course, if it was a PR stunt, it's now backfiring: The rapper's fan base has started a huge #Free21Savage campaign, and many of the rapper's colleagues — including Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Vince Staples, and Quavo — demanded that ICE release him. Jay-Z even offered legal help and called the incident a "tragedy."

Multiple artists also shouted out 21 Savage at the Grammys on Sunday evening. The rapper had been scheduled to perform at the event.

Yesterday, yet another group of massively popular celebrities and musicians cut the Mic video criticizing ICE. Mere hours after the activists released the clip, ICE released the rapper on bond, but his case remains open. He can still be deported.

In each segment of the video, a different celebrity references a real-life incident in which ICE arrested an undocumented person. The video begins with rapper Kendrick Lamar warning that ICE can arrest you even if you are "falsely accused of being a criminal because of your skin color." Others noted that ICE has arrested immigrants "getting their morning coffee," "leaving the grocery store," taking their pregnant wives to the hospital, "leaving the hospital after surgery," and even "having a tattoo."

"In other words, living in America," Lamar then says. Musician SZA adds that these "instances can happen to anyone, especially if you're a person of color."

(ICE officials have arrested South Floridians for everything from losing their wallets to trying to pay traffic tickets. Multiple American citizens from the Miami area are also suing ICE and local police agencies for improperly trying to deport them.)

Khaled isn't otherwise known for being politically active, though he did lead a 2016 campaign rally for Hillary Clinton in Miami alongside Barack Obama. Khaled, a practicing Muslim, also came out staunchly against Donald Trump's Muslim travel ban in a January 2017 Instagram post.

"Bless up, I am a Muslim American love is the [key] love is the answer," he wrote. "It's so amazing to see so many people come together in love! I pray for everyone I pray we all love and live in peace... #NoBanNoWall"

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