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Hip-Hop Fridays: Slick Rick Detained In Florida By The INS, Denied Bail

Six weeks after his arrest in Miami by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the rapper Slick Rick was denied bail in a deportation hearing held in Bradenton, Florida on July 12. Asserting that the English-born rapper represents a "flight risk," INS Officer in Charge David Wing told Alex Solomiany, Rick's attorney, that Rick needed to remain in custody while his case is being adjudicated. Immigration Judge Kevin R. McHugh denied bail, noting that he had no jurisdiction in this matter. Mr. Solomiany immediately appealed the court's decision and has asked the INS to reconsider Rick's custody status.

Rick's problems with the INS are longstanding. Although he moved from England to America with his family when he was 11 years old and has been a legal resident since 1976, Rick never became a naturalized citizen. This oversight complicated his legal woes when he committed a felony in New York in 1990 and went to prison in 1991. The INS moved to have Rick deported to England upon the completion of his sentence in America. Rick's family and friends fought to have him stay here. (He has no remaining family ties to England.) In June of 1995 Rick was granted the right to remain in America. When the INS appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration in November of 1995, their appeal was dismissed. When the INS appealed again, in March of 1997, their appeal was sustained. The Board of Immigration Appeals then ordered Rick to be deported.

Meanwhile, in January of 1996 Rick had been released from prison - he served exactly five years and 12 days - and promptly returned to his home in the Bronx. Informed in 1997 of the deportation order against him, Rick hired an attorney and appealed. He was never informed that there was a standing INS warrant for his arrest.

During the last six years Rick got married, resumed his recording career, and met all the obligations of his parole. He is a property owner and the supportive father of two children.

On May 28th of this year, Rick was hired as an entertainer on the Tom Joyner Foundation's Fantastic Voyage 2002. The floating show cruised the Caribbean - including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands - on a ship called The Explorer of the Seas and featured such other well-known performers as Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, Yolanda Adams, Earth, Wind & Fire, the O'Jays, the Gap Band, Third World, and the Baha Men. When the ship docked in Miami on June 1, Rick was arrested by the INS. The agency charged Rick with deporting himself and illegally re-entering the United States.

Incarcerated at the INS center in Bradenton, Florida, Rick applied immediately to the INS for bond but was denied. In court on Friday, July 12 he renewed his request for bond and was again denied because the immigration judge at the hearing had no authority to grant bond. In fact, in April of 1996, bond-granting authority was removed from immigration judges and given directly to the INS itself in an effort to strengthen America's internal security following Timothy McVeigh's attack on the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Mandy Aragones, Rick's wife, has decried the INS's decision to keep Rick in jail. "Ricky presents absolutely no 'flight risk,'" she says, "I can guarantee my life on that. Ricky is a man of good character, he is hard-working, honest and humble and he would never jeopardize his life again. All his loved ones are here in America. His home is here and his family needs him, especially his daughter and son. He should be allowed to return to his family in New York while sorting out this matter with INS."

Rick "Slick Rick" Walters was born in London in 1965 and moved with his family to the Bronx in 1975. As a 19-year-old in the summer of 1985 he scored his first big hits, "La Di Da Di" and "The Show." Three years later Def Jam Recordings released Rick's first full-length album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. Hailed as a showcase for Rick's extraordinary writing and rapping skills, it quickly achieved "platinum" status for sales in excess of one million copies and has since established itself as a rap classic.

At the height of his fame in July of 1990, Rick shot and wounded two people in an ill-advised attempt to protect himself against a violent predator. Convicted of attempted murder in the second degree, he began serving his sentence of three-to-ten years in 1991. While he was in jail, he released "The Ruler's Back" (1991) and "Behind Bars" (1994). In 1999 he released "The Art of Storytelling." All three albums were certified gold.

Letters of support for Slick Rick have poured in from entertainers, activists, and politicians alike, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, New York State Senator David Paterson, Russell Simmons, and comedian/actor Chris Rock.

In a letter to the INS in Bradenton, actor and rapper Will Smith wrote, "I have known Rick for over 15 years, not just as an artist, but as a friend. He has always been professional, reliable and trustworthy. While I am aware of his past problems, I've also had the pleasure to watch him develop into a good person. His many ties to this country, and his family in particular, assure that he will not flee. I respectfully ask that he be allowed to stay in this country and released to his family as soon as possible."

Friday, July 19, 2002

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