Rapper Ricky “Slick Rick” Walters is a married man, a father of two, a taxpayer. Across the last decade, he’s earned another distinction: the focus of a long-running legal fight with federal officials who want him deported for a crime committed 16 years ago.
Walters, the eye-patch wearing star behind the ‘80s rap classic “La-Di-Da-Di,” thought he was headed for victory in his immigration case after a federal judge’s 2003 ruling sprung him from a Florida detention facility after 17 months.
But Homeland Security officials, in a move that Walters’ supporters said was overzealous, pressed forward with the case — and a September federal appeals court ruling in the government’s favor led the rapper to wonder how long his past will affect his future.
“The situation we’re talking about happened in 1990,” Walters said Wednesday. “This is 2006. I don’t know if this is about politics, or the law, or what. I’m just leaving it in God’s hands.”
Walters’ woes started when he shot his cousin and a bystander, claiming the cousin had extorted money and threatened his family. Chart-topping Slick Rick became Inmate No. 91A4968, doing time for attempted murder before returning to his family and Bronx home in 1993.
That same year, the Immigration and Naturalization Service moved to deport the London native and jailed him again. A December 1995 ruling by an immigration judge said keeping Walters in the United States was “in the best interest of the country,” and he was quickly freed.
Walters, now 41, resumed his musical career and avoided trouble. But in June 2002, he was arrested by INS agents after returning to Miami from a weeklong Caribbean cruise where he was a featured performer.
The bust came on a 1997 INS warrant that was never previously enforced, although Walters had lived in the Bronx since before it was issued. A federal judge eventually ruled in October 2003 that the Bureau of Immigration Appeals had denied Walters due process in issuing the warrant — the rapper’s second victory in court, although the win cost him more jail time.
“With all of the real and present threats to American society from terrorism, why is the government chasing this rapper?” asked Benjamin Chavis, co-chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.
Homeland Security does not comment on specific cases, but Walters’ 1990 aggravated felony conviction was sufficient to make him eligible for deportation, said agency spokesman Mark Raimondi.
The latest ruling came Sept. 20, when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York vacated the 2003 order freeing Walters and ordered the case switched to a Georgia appeals court considered far more conservative.
Attorneys for Walters may appeal for the New York court to hear the case, rather than grant the change of venue. The Second Circuit, while ruling for the government, noted that Walters had a good chance of avoiding deportation.
Walters said he’s just going on with his life, playing shows and paying bills. He doesn’t see any other options.
“If you were in my shoes, how would you look at life?” he asked. “You’d ride life out, too. Anger would just make life not enjoyable, you know what I mean?”
I'd post pictures but my computer for some reason won't let me see pictures :(