Entertainment

Rapper 21 Savage Knows The Trauma Of Growing Up Undocumented, Now He Has A Plan To Help Kids Like Him

Grammy-nominated rapper 21 Savage wants a better future for undocumented children living in the United States illegally. His answer? To grant U.S. citizenship automatically to all children living without documentation. Savage himself grew up without documentation and experienced the chronic fear that undocumented children often carry into adulthood firsthand.

The artist was born in London, England, to Dominican and Haitian parents and moved to the U.S. when he was just 7 years old.

@21savage / Instagram

His visa expired in 2006, but his lawyer said it wasn’t his fault. He was just 14 years old when he suddenly experienced the loss of freedom that the visa had granted. “When you’re a child, you don’t know what’s going on,” the rapper told AP News. “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.”

A decision that was out of his control followed him into adulthood, landing him in an ICE detention facility for ten days.

@21savage / Instagram

In 2017, 21 Savage applied to have his visa renewed without resolution. Earlier this year, ICE pulled over the young artist’s vehicle, arrested him, and detained him for ten days in a Georgia facility. Then, a spokesperson for ICE attempted to defame his character, saying, “His whole public persona is false. He actually came to the U.S. from the U.K. as a teen and overstayed his visa.” That simply isn’t true. He was just 7 years old –a baby– when he arrived in the U.S.

Now, he says the visa process is so overwhelming that undocumented people avoid even applying because it “hangs over your head forever.”

Now Savage is using his platform to speak on his experience as an undocumented child.

@21savage / Instagram

“When you ain’t got no choice, you should be exempt,” 21 Savage told AP. “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.”  

Savage believes that granting automatic citizenship will even the playing field for hope for a better life with every other documented child.

@21savage / Instagram

“They just lose hope,” Savage told AP. “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.” There are an estimated 1.1 million undocumented minors currently living in the United States. As they become of age, they watch their peers obtain legal jobs under healthy working conditions, obtain a driver’s license and go to college. Education access is a huge roadblock for undocumented youth, with 40% of undocumented adults under 24 reporting that they did not complete high school. 

For all the fiscal conservatives out there, granting citizenship to undocumented youth would likely only improve the economy.

@unitedwedream / Twitter

According to University of Washington Professor of Sociology Roberto Gonzalez,  “Given the opportunity to receive additional education and move into better-paying jobs, undocumented students would pay more in taxes and have more money to spend and invest in the U.S. economy.” Access to education begins with citizenship. Undocumented youth are not eligible for merit scholarships, FAFSA or Pell grants are only available to U.S. citizens. One Colorado non-profit, Together Colorado, predicts that an increase of $2.2 billion in tax revenue would result from “full immigration reform” that would allow undocumented youth to be granted equal participation in creating their own ceiling.

The National Immigration Law Center is awarding 21 Savage for his immigration activism efforts.

@21savage / Instagram

Savage fell into the school to prison pipeline early on in life. His brother, born in the U.S., was killed in a shooting. In seventh grade, Savage was personally banned from every public school in his county for gun possession. He was sent to a youth detention center, and when he got out, he joined a gang affiliated with The Bloods. Still, he was able to make a career for himself in the music industry, and experience class mobility, unlike most other undocumented children. His immigration court date has been postponed indefinitely. That makes his story a win. 

“We got a fight that we need to continue in this country,” Savage 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.” Share if you agree.

This Guatemalan Mom Was Separated From Her Son At The Border After Enduring A Gunshot To The Face

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This Guatemalan Mom Was Separated From Her Son At The Border After Enduring A Gunshot To The Face

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In an exclusive interview with People Magazine, a 32-year-old Guatemalan woman recounts her experience fleeing her home country in August 2017 after being shot in the face at a demonstration. Not only does the woman—who goes by the false name Daniella—describe the event that catalyzed her desire to leave Guatemala, but she tells of the many months spent traveling north, and the many months spent in a detention center after reaching the border, separated from her young son.

On August 9, 2017, Daniella and her son, Carlos, were leaving their family’s house when they encountered a large protest against a new measure that would require people to pay for water. At first the protest was peaceful—but then bullets started flying through the air. Daniella and Carlos were just passing through, but a bullet had caught Daniella in two parts of her body: the left arm, and right below the eye.

“I threw my arm around Carlos to protect him—he was covered in blood, and I started to panic,” she told People. “Little did I know that the one bleeding was me.”

Because of rampant corruption in that part of Guatemala, Daniella knew that the police wouldn’t come—they were told not to interfere. So vigilant were certain members of the demonstration that Daniella’s father received a threatening call before she even made it to a hospital. The caller told her father that if they filed a report, he would kill the whole family. Later she learned that the man who had shot her lived just three blocks away from her mother. Fortunately, when she made it to the hospital, her husband—who had moved the the U.S. five years earlier to find work, sent money for the expenses.

After more than a week in the hospital, both bullets remain in Daniella’s body to this day.

“The doctor said that if they were taken out, I could be left in a vegetative state, or I could die,” she said. “To this day I still feel pain.”

After this harrowing experience, Daniella decided that it was time to follow in her husband’s footsteps and flee to the U.S. She knew that the journey would be anything but easy, but she could have never guessed how nightmarish a month lay ahead. Traveling by truck and by bus, there were many nights spent on the side of the road. When they finally made it to the Arizona border, they were not dropped off at an immigration center, as she had expected. Instead, she and Carlos were told to climb a tree, then jump from the tree to the border wall. From there, they could reach the other side.

“I told Carlos, ‘Mijo, you have to jump.’ He was so afraid that he wouldn’t move,” she said. “I looked into my son’s eyes, and I said, ‘Son, please trust me. Everything’s going to be all right.’

After they had both made it safely to the other side, they took just a few steps before the Border Patrol arrived. They were taken into custody and dropped off at “La Hielera”—The Icebox. There, Daniella was forced to sign papers she didn’t understand, and the officer who was present told her that the children would be taken to a shelter, then given up for adoption. Naturally, all the mothers were desperately frightened by this news.

Before leaving for court that same day, Daniella said goodbye to Carlos, unsure if they would ever see each other again. She told People Magazine that she held her son and said: “You’re a champion, Papa, and you’re always going to be in my heart.”

The mothers were not immediately told the whereabouts of their children. But five months after being moved to Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, Daniella learned that Carlos was in a New Jersey foster home.

A few months later, Daniella had her official court hearing. Her bail was posted at $30,000, and after filing an appeal to extend the bail deadline, Daniella was released from custody. She had been detained for 11 months.

The organization Immigrant Families Together had gathered the money for Daniella’s bail, and they helped her get back on her feet by providing her with food and clean clothes. They also took her to the airport to fly to Virginia, where Carlos had relocated to live with his uncle, her brother.

Daniella’s story isn’t unique—roughly 30,000 people are detained in the U.S. on a given day, and these numbers have seen major upticks throughout 2019. What makes Daniella’s story remarkable is her reunion with Carlos. Many families who have been separated at the border are not nearly as lucky.

While she and Carlos continue to deal with the psychological trauma of this experience, Daniella is grateful and focused on the future.

“Without the assistance from all the people that helped me, I wouldn’t be free,” said Daniella. “Now my only focus is my family, my son, starting a new life here in California . . . I don’t have to worry about being shot again or putting my son’s life in danger.”

The Supreme Court Is Deciding Whether It Should Criminalize Pro-Immigrant Speech

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The Supreme Court Is Deciding Whether It Should Criminalize Pro-Immigrant Speech

New York Immigration Center

The First Amendment seemed like one law that would go unchallenged in the United States. With bipartisan support and the general consensus that freedom of speech is a tenet of democracy seemed to ensure its safety. However, the Supreme Court has decided to hear the case of United States v. Sineneng-Smith. 

The judges will decide if pro-immigrant speech that might encourage undocumented immigrants to illegally enter the United States is unlawful. The verdict could have serious consequences not just for migrants but for their advocates as well. 

The Supreme Court has a conservative majority and the current iteration of the Republican party has taken a rather extreme anti-immigrant stance lately, two factors which could heavily affect the outcome of the decision. 

The case concerns an obscure “encouragement provision” of immigration law.

According to Slate, a section in our immigration code forbids the encouragement of an “alien” to reside in the United States if the individual has no legal status. The case made its away to the Supreme Court by way of Evelyn Sineneng-Smith. 

Sineneng-Smith was charged and convicted of fraud by the Trump administration when, as an immigration consultant, she incorrectly told clients they could stay in the U.S. under a program she had already known ended. However, prosecutors also convicted her on the encouragement provision. 

The issue is Sineneng-Smith is being charged for what she said on a very literal basis. The fraud is the obvious wrong-doing, but now the courts will have to decide: are the words themselves? 

What if it is an undocumented person’s best course of action to remain in the U.S. without papers, which may be the case with our esoteric and fluctuating immigration system, on top of the implied moral conundrum.

“An advocate or lawyer now has to worry, given the government’s position in this case, that this language … may trigger criminal liability just for correctly advising a noncitizen,” Manny Vargas, senior counsel for the nonprofit Immigrant Defense Project in New York City, told Slate.

Advocates will be forced to second guess the advice they give to clients in fear of facing legal action. 

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Sineneng-Smith to appeal. 

Although the courts struck down Sineneng-Smith’s fraud appeal, they reversed the encouragement conviction. A three-judge majority believed the provision criminalizes constitutionally protected speech, therefore, violating the First Amendment. 

The judges asserted that the provision, “criminalizes a substantial amount of protected expression in relation to the statute’s narrow legitimate sweep,” and that it, “potentially criminalizes the simple words—spoken to a son, a wife, a parent, a friend, a neighbor, a coworker, a student, a client—’I encourage you to stay here.’”

However, the Trump administration decided to legally challenge the 9th Circuit sending the case to the Supreme Court who could choose to either accept or reject the case. They chose to accept it. 

The encouragement provision provides “appropriate punishment for defendants who seek enrichment by incentivizing or procuring violations of the immigration laws by aliens who illegally enter or remain in the United States,” the government wrote in a court filing. 

The Trump Administration also suggested the 9th Circuit’s “hypotheticals” are hyperbole and that the provision is an essential law enforcement tool. 

The ACLU stands against the encouragement provision. 

 “Anytime you hear a government lawyer saying ‘trust us’ when our free speech rights are at stake, you should run in the other direction,” ACLU deputy legal director Cecillia Wang said

Wang noted that there cannot be any discourse about immigration if individuals are banned from mentioning the subject on social media. 

“I write an op-ed saying, ‘I disagree with the U.S. immigration laws and I believe that ‘Dreamers’ should stay in the U.S., you belong here,” she said. “I can’t leave it up to good faith in prosecutors not to come after me and try to throw me in federal prison for doing that.” 

Vargas believes that the fact that the Supreme Court has taken on the case, coupled with the Trump administration advocating for the provision itself — is not a good sign. According to Slate, the provision is little known that has existed for years but has rarely been enforced until now. 

The only thing that’s different now is that the current administration has amped up anti-immigrant rhetoric along with increasingly extreme tactics to enforce those sentiments. 

“The fact that the U.S. is looking to get the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s finding … is an indication that the government wants to use this provision,” Vargas told Slate. 

If you’re wondering if the Supreme Court could really ban freedom of speech in a country that regularly bans people from even entering it, that banned couples from getting married, that fairly recently banned one race from using the same water fountains as another race, then you might be asking the wrong questions.