Rapper 21 Savage was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Feb. 3 for being illegally present in the United States, shining a light on immigration in the United States. Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, professionally known as 21 Savage, overstayed his visa and briefly had no legal status as a minor in 2005.
He submitted an application for a U Visa, a visa for crime victims that have suffered mental and physical abuse and are willing to help law enforcement officials in investigations of the criminal activity, in 2017 that is still pending.
Undocumented black immigrants are not overwhelmingly mentioned in mainstream media. Last month — Black History Month — they became a trending topic of conversation with the arrest of the public figure.
Organizations like Undocublack Network, a united group of undocumented black people, agree that hearing stories of detention spark more empathy and activism among the general public, according to Gabrielle Jackson, the Mental Wellness Director of Undocublack Network.
"We're constantly fighting to have the stories of people who are black undocumented immigrants to be uplifted," Jackson said. "Because 21 Savage has a public persona, it was able to garner this kind of cross over across people. They realized somebody that was famous is impacted by this, too."
Although around seven percent of non-citizens living in the United States are black, black people make up over 20 percent of non-citizens facing deportation because of criminality, according to New York University law school's Immigrant Rights Clinic and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI).
Beyond media coverage, geography might also impact the way the public views undocumented immigrants, according to Professor Jean Reisz, a supervising attorney at the USC Immigration Clinic and an adjunct assistant professor of law at USC Gould.
"Especially being in L.A., we see the immigrant community as being largely Latino, but those are just perceptions based on where you live," Reisz said, "If you're really involved in the immigrant community, you know there's a strong undocumented and documented black immigrant community as well."
Abraham-Joseph was released from detainment by ICE last month. While he is no longer detained, the struggles of undocumented Black immigrants persist, according to Clarise McCants, the Campaign Director of Criminal Justice at Color Of Change, a nonprofit organization that campaigns for black advocacy.
"Sadly, his case is just the latest example of how the Trump administration's Immigration and Customs Enforcement works with local law enforcement to target black immigrants," McCants said. "We're fighting for Shéyaa and every black immigrant who is unjustly targeted by the Trump administration's deportation machine."
Reisz added that undocumented immigrants can be detained at any time, for as long as Immigration and Customs Enforcement seems fit, without a guaranteed bond.
Before becoming a politically "hot topic" in the last few years, deportation and detention of immigrant populations in the U.S was still happening, according to Reisz.
"That has been happening for a very long time, and people just don't know about it. And, it is shocking, and it is horrible," Reisz said, "I think a lot of people who aren't touched by immigration don't understand that constant fear of instability and of being ripped from your family."
President Trump praised ICE officers during his State of the Union address earlier this month for its arrests of "criminal aliens." He referred to the officers as "heroes."
After declaring a national emergency to receive funding to build a US-Mexico border wall, Trump received backlash on Twitter. BAJI joined in the trending conversation, saying that "targeting Black immigrants like @21savage for deportation by ICE is the #RealNationalEmergency."