21 Savage, who was recently arrested for living in the US on an expired visa since his teens, told the Associated Press that he believes young immigrants should receive automatic US citizenship in an interview Thursday night ahead of receiving an award from the National Immigration Law Center. The NILC honored the UK-born, Atlanta-based rapper for his work advocating for immigrant justice in the wake of his arrest earlier this year.
“When you’re a child, you don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “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.” Thursday night’s statements echo sentiments he previously expressed in which he said becoming a US citizen “felt impossible” because of the labyrinthine system of legal requirements that even fully grown adults can have trouble navigating as non-native or even native English speakers.
21 was detained in an ICE facility for 10 days this spring after being arrested in a sting targeting another rapper — 21’s cousin Young Nudy — for unrelated offenses. However, it was soon revealed that he had tried to update his visa before the arrest and may have been targeted alongside his cousin after all. His original visa expired in 2006, but since he was only 13 or 14 years old at the time, he had know way of knowing or understanding why he needed a renewal or how to get one.
“When you ain’t got no choice, you should be exempt,” he said. “It’s not like I was 30, woke up and moved over here. I’ve been here since I was like 7 or 8, probably younger than that. I didn’t know anything about visas and all that. I just knew we were moving to a new place.” The reason he is so adamant that others in his situation should “automatically become citizens” is because he still has yet to be clear of his immigration case, despite applying for a new visa in 2017. “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.”