Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested rapper 21 Savage on Sunday, setting off a firestorm on social media.
The British national was taken into custody in Atlanta for overstaying his visa.
Fans reacted with a mixture of shock and humor at the revelation that the Georgia rapper is actually a British citizen.
ICE arrests British rapper
Immigration officials triangulated Savage, whose real name is Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, in a sting operation in Atlanta on Sunday, according to ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox.
According to Cox, Savage entered the U.S. legally in 2005 but his visa expired in 2006 and he never left. The Grammy-nominated artist was also convicted on felony drug charges in 2014.
Savage is in custody and being prepared for deportation back to Britain.
His immigration lawyer, Charles Kuck, said that Savage has “never hid his immigration status” and condemned ICE for intimidating a harmless foreigner who is not a flight risk and poses no danger to society.
Kuck added that Savage has a pending application for a U-Visa, which is a special visa for victims of certain crimes.
Savage has attracted controversy in the past, including for a song released in December wherein he rapped, “We been getting that Jewish money, everything is Kosher.”
“The Jewish people I know are very wise with [their] money so that’s why I said we been gettin[‘] Jewish money,” the rapper tweeted. “I never thought anyone would take offense[.] I’m sorry if I offended everybody never my intention I love all people.”
Social media reacts
The shocking arrest of a celebrity by immigration officials prompted a storm of jokes on social media from fans who assumed the Atlanta-based rapper was a U.S. citizen. Internet trolls likened the Atlanta-based rapper to a posh Englishman and even imagined him with a Cockney accent.
Why y’all 21 Savage like this?! 😩 pic.twitter.com/cjoL3W8w1r
— WORLDSTARHIPHOP (@WORLDSTAR) February 3, 2019
Even singer Demi Lovato got in on the action. She deleted her Twitter account after facing backlash for expressing joy at the 21 Savage memes being cooked up on Superbowl Sunday.
“So far 21 Savage memes have been my favorite part of the Super Bowl,” Lovato tweeted. Many Twitter users responded by calling out the singer for her ongoing struggles with drug addiction.
But to some entertainers and celebrities who showed support for the rapper, 21 Savage’s arrest was no laughing matter. Rappers Meek Mill and Lil Yachty called for ICE to “Free Savage.”
Savage entered the rap game with a mixtape in 2015 and he has grown in popularity, recently performing at the Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest in Atlanta. A record on which he appears, “Rockstar” by Post Malone, was nominated for a Grammy. The award show is Sunday.