21 Savage Advocates For Immigrant Children And Pushes For Automatic Citizenship
"I feel like we should automatically become citizens," the UK-born rapper who came to the U.S. as a child said, as he was honored by the NILC.
21 Savage was honored by the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) for his advocacy work on behalf of immigrant rights.
According to the Associated Press, the 26-year-old rapper, whose real name is Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, shared his opinions on the United States' rigid immigration policies with attendees at last Thursday's event, emphasizing the notion that children should not be required "to endure the lengthy process to obtain visas."
As 21 Savage sees it, because most young children who move with their families to America are likely not even aware of their own immigration status, they should be exempt from the same policies that are used to hold adult immigrants accountable. Additionally, children should not be subject to detention by ICE, especially if they are never made of the state of their immigration status. Instead, immigrant children who move to the U.S. with their families should be automatically recognized as U.S. citizens.“When you’re a child, you don’t know what’s going on,” 21 Savage told AP. “Now, you grow up and got to figure it out. Can’t get a job. Can’t get a license. I’m one of the lucky ones who became successful. It’s a lot of people who can’t.”
The ceremony honoring his commitment to immigrants came months after his own immigration saga. When 21 Savage's family immigrated to the U.S. from the UK, he was around seven years old. In February, the Atlanta-based rapper was reportedly detained by ICE for living in the U.S. illegally. Unbeknownst to 21 Savage, his H-4 visa had expired over a decade ago, thus he was picked up for allegedly overstaying his welcome. He was eventually released after reportedly spending 10 days in ICE's custody, thanks to the efforts of Jay-Z's Roc Nation legal team.
“When you ain’t got no choice, you should be exempt,” the "A Lot" artist said during the NILC award ceremony, according to AP. “It’s not like I was 30, woke up and moved over here. I’ve been here since I was like [seven] or [eight], probably younger than that. I didn’t know anything about visas and all that. I just knew we were moving to a new place.”
For the last few years, the Trump administration has cracked down on illegal immigration by implementing a child separation policy and making the visa process more difficult. The rapper also mentioned how difficult it was to obtain a visa.
“They just lose hope,” he said, according to Rolling Stone. “I feel like kids who were brought here at young ages, they should automatically be like, ‘Yeah, you good to stay here, work and go to college.’ It should be nipped in the bud before it gets to a point before you come of age.”
Also instrumental in helping free 21 Savage from ICE custody, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors presented the artist with the Courageous Luminaries award.
“We got a fight that we need to continue in this country,” he said. “It ain’t over yet. Even after everything is cool with me, we still have to fight and help people who can’t fight for themselves.”