“Three meals a day, exercise, boredom, play cards to keep yourself occupied, visits behind a bulletproof glass … it’s like being sentenced all over again.”
At a time when Slick Rick would rather be working on his next album or keeping up his busy performance schedule, the Ruler is cooling his heels in a Bradenton, Florida, Immigration Detainment Center (see “Slick Rick In Jail, Facing Deportation” ). He was arrested in Miami on June 1 by the Immigration and Naturalization Service after a cruise ship performance and has been held without bail ever since.
“They’re saying I’m a flight risk,” Rick said dejectedly by phone on Monday. “What would be the benefit of me running while I’m fighting my case?”
The INS claims the British-born rapper’s felony record requires he be deported. To Rick’s dismay, he may never see his home again.
“It’s pretty devastating, because their plans are to rip you from your family and send you to England,” the 37-year-old Hip-Hop Hall of Fame inductee said, sighing. “I could see if I did something wrong to warrant this. But to serve your time, to be in the streets for over six years and make your ties … I have buildings, kids, a wife, and then out of the clear blue sky, they tell you, ‘We’re deporting you. Not because of your character, but because of technicalities.’ It’s inhumane.”
Rick, born Rick Walters, has been battling back and forth with the immigration courts since 1995. The INS twice tried to deport him because of his 1991 conviction for attempted second-degree murder, and he won both court cases. In 1999, a decision was granted by the Board of Immigration Appeals giving the INS the right to deport him and send him back to England, where he spent his first 11 years. Rick said he was never informed of the decision.
“My first two cases were in front of judges,” Rick explained. “Those were before a panel of judges. They decided, ‘Yes, he still should stay in the country.’ [INS] appealed again and [the courts] decided, ‘Yes, he still should stay in the country.’ It’s like, when does it end? I’ve been out of prison since 1996. My address hasn’t changed. They had ample opportunity [to inform me] if it was all like that.
“Basically, when you go to court, they don’t tell you why they’re doing it. They just look at technicalities and docket numbers,” he continued. “There needs to be some type of system to weed out or filter good and bad cases. I understand they’re trying to stop terrorism and all that, but the minority community is suffering too.”
Rick said he was not sure when a decision would be made in his case, and he guessed that it would be anywhere between three months to one year. He has not prepared himself for the worst.
“It would be kind of devastating to try and figure it out,” he said. “I would have to wait until it comes to that point. I have real estate in the Bronx and a wife, and the whole relocation thing is not as simple as it sounds. It would be pretty hectic to try and figure everything out. I’m not totally prepared if it ever came to that. I guess I would have to cross that road when I come to it.
“My wife is a [U.S.] citizen,” he continued. “My kids are citizens. My mother and father are citizens. My whole thing is that my family went to England for job purposes. It’s not like I can go to England and I’ve got a bunch of family [there]. It’s a fish-out-of-water-type thing.”
Some of Rick’s influential friends, such as Russell Simmons, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Will Smith, have publicly spoken out in his favor. His label, Def Jam, has made a downloadable e-mail petition available on its Web site (defjam.com) which urges the INS to grant Rick bail until his legal troubles are resolved.
“The public knows my case,” Rick said. “I took the law into my hands, which was the wrong thing to do. I learned my lesson, I served my time, I wanna thank all the fans for the support. Sorry about this situation, but what can you do?
“I would advise hard-working people who think they are American because they were raised here to get that citizenship,” he added. “Times are crucial. If I wasn’t Slick Rick, there would be no sign of any sympathy. I’m not the only bad case. There are a hundred other cases that are even worse than this.”