21 Savage arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, prompting shock and confusion

It was widely believed that the rapper was born in Atlanta, Georgia.

February 4, 2019, 3:08 PM

21 Savage, the Atlanta-based rapper, was arrested in a targeted operation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement early on Sunday in Atlanta, Georgia, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox confirmed to ABC News.

The Grammy-nominated rapper, whose full name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is currently in deportation proceedings in federal immigration court, Cox said.

"Mr. Abraham-Joseph is presently in ICE custody in Georgia and has been placed into removal proceedings before the federal immigration courts. ICE will now await the outcome of his case before a federal immigration judge to determine future actions," Cox told ABC News.

The news came as a shock to fans and caused widespread confusion because it was widely believed that the 26-year-old was born in Atlanta and this information also appeared on his Wikipedia page at the time of his arrest.

The rapper was featured in XXL Magazine's freshmen class of 2016 and at the time, he told the magazine that he is from Decatur, Georgia.

But according to ICE, Abraham-Joseph is a British citizen who overstayed his visa after entered the U.S. legally in July 2006.

"Long story short, he came in 2005 legally; however, he subsequently failed to deport," Cox said. "His visa expired in 2006 he has been in the country unlawfully ever since."

The rapper's attorney Charles H. Kuck said in a statement obtained by ABC news on Monday that 21 Savage "never hid his immigration status from the US government" and his detention is "a civil law violation" and is "based upon incorrect information about prior criminal charges."

"As a minor, his family overstayed their work visas, and he, like almost two million other children, was left without legal status through no fault of his own. This is a civil law violation, and the continued detention of Mr. Abraham-Joseph serves no other purpose than to unnecessarily punish him and try to intimidate him into giving up his right to fight to remain in the United States," Kuck said.

"He rose above the difficult circumstances of his youth to achieve success and make contributions to our society that rival any of those by a natural born citizen. Mr. Abraham-Joseph has US citizen children that he supports and is eligible for relief from deportation. We and he will fight for his release, for his family, and his right to remain in our country," the attorney added.

The rapper was convicted on felony drug charges in Fulton County, Georgia, in October 2014, prompting some to question why he wasn't arrested then by ICE.

"We were not aware of his immigration status in 2014 and we have since obtained the information," Cox said.

"He was arrested by local law enforcement agencies [in 2014] and given that we weren’t aware, it didn’t trigger a warning subsequent to all that," he added.

21 Savage released his sophomore album, "I am > I was," in December and is nominated for two Grammy awards this year.

He has collaborated with artists like Travis Scott, Post Malone, J Cole, Offset and Childish Gambino.

ABC News' Sabina Ghebremedhi contributed to this report.