Rapper Ricky “Slick Rick” Walters was released from a Bradenton, Fla., jail yesterday (Nov. 7), more than 17 months after U.S. immigration officials moved to deport the British-born star.
Reached by telephone in his lawyer’s car, Walters said he was relieved to be freed and intended to head home to his wife and children in New York. “I am fine,” Walters said. “It feels good, fresh air, a new beginning.”
Walters’ release was cleared a week ago by federal Judge Kimba Wood, who ruled the Board of Immigration Appeals should never have reversed its earlier decision that Walters could stay in the United States despite a criminal conviction.
The rapper was detained in June 2002 as he returned to Florida after a weeklong gig aboard a cruise ship. His detainment came amid the immigration crackdown following the Sept. 11 attacks.
As the months passed with 38-year-old Walters in jail south of Tampa, supporters including comedian Chris Rock, actor Will Smith, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke out about his case.
Walters said he spent the last week not certain when he would be released. He ran into further problems when jail workers couldn’t locate his driver’s license, and he had to get a temporary one for identification for the flight home.
“It’s been pretty stressful,” he said of his detention at the Bradenton facility, which has a contract with immigration officials to house detainees. “You don’t know if you are going to be in America. You don’t know if you are going to be in England.”
He said his children, ages 12 and 13, missed having him be a part of their lives. “They weren’t certain they were going to see me in this country again,” Walters said.
The time in jail, though, allowed him to work on his music. “It think it’s just like another adventure,” Walters said. “Just building character, giving me more substance to write about.”
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