Vancouver music community aids in funding J-Swift’s fight for his rights [Article]
Vancouver, BC – Over the last couple of months it has been a Bizarre Ride indeed for producer/emcee J-Swift of The Pharcyde. After performing a show in Vancouver on January 14, 2015 with Fatlip, J-Swift began his journey back to Los Angeles via VYR airport and was met with an unfortunate challenge.
J-Swift at Alexander Gastown in Vancouver
“I travelled on appeal, I have an immigration case but I appealed it so I have every right as a legal permanent resident. After I did my appeal last year I went to Europe. Nine countries, came back, no one said anything. So I thought for this show, one day, I’ll come” explains Swift. “The next day at the airport, customs told me that my paperwork was expired…and it wasn’t. It was stamped for April 14, 2015. I would have never left if I knew this would happen. So they say, ‘We’ll let you out the door and you can drive to the border’. So then I called my friend and he drove me to the border and then they said ‘Why are you here? They told you you couldn’t come in’…because they had already crossed out my passport. They told me to go back to the Canadian border. When I go back to the Canadian border, they start going through my records and see that I have some criminal history. Minor stuff. They arrested me, right there.”
The border agents confiscated Swift’s passport and proceeded to arrest him. He was then put into admissibility and spent five days behind bars in British Columbia. The courts informed him then that he should have never been allowed entry into the country but once they realized he had a visa, they asked if he had friends or family in Vancouver. Since he was already in Canada, they agreed to let him out of jail on supervision. Luckily, Swift had previously befriended some local artists who have opened their door to him during which time he is to check-in with the Canadian Government bi-weekly until his court appeal date on March 26, 2015.
Swift has had his fair share of challenges with addiction in the past which lead him to an arrest and criminal charges 10 years ago. “I’ve been in American since I was 24 months old…2 years old. You know when I found out I wasn’t American? When I Was 34 Years old. I was shocked when I got arrested at 34 and I was told I might be deported. I’m like ‘Where? To Inglewood?’ They said ‘No, to Cuba.’ That’s where my dad is from.” he confesses. After remaining sober for six years, a brief relapse lead him to another arrest in 2012. Regardless of his priors, J-Swift is on appeal, which has allowed him to cross borders to Canada and Europe over the past couple of years. According to Swift, as a legal permanent resident of the United States (who is on appeal), the only persons with the right to refuse his entry back into the US is the courts, and customs had no right to refuse his entry.
While the case of artists being refused at the border is not uncommon, this situation in particular is quite unique. Without the help of Swift’s Vancouver friends Brody Mudryk and Tem Hutchinson and their offering of a place to stay he would currently be awaiting his appeal behind bars. Swift’s biggest concern he says is not only to make his way back to his family but to make sure this type of situation doesn’t happen to other touring artists: “Awareness is all I want to raise. My rights are being trampled. I’ve got four kids, and they need their dad. I’ve beat the biggest demon I could ever imagine. Cocaine. That was a challenge, it took me 7 years but I did it. So I deserve to be able to be with my kids…at least during the appeal process”.
Benefit Concert in Vancouver on March 22
Swift has employed three lawyers who are scrambling to find someone on an administrative level to supersede custom’s authority before his appeal date or he will be deported to his birthplace in Spain. With a family of five anxiously awaiting his return to Los Angeles, Swift is simply at the end of his rope financially when it comes to supporting his family and paying hefty lawyer fees. For a man who has overcome the hurdles of homelessness and addiction, Swift is determined to make it through this and back home safe to his family, at all costs.
A GoFundMe campaign has already been set up in Swift’s name, where good samaritans and supporters can donate any amount online to help reduce his obese lawyer fees. The local hip-hop community in Vancouver has also decided to do their part in helping out by throwing a concert fundraiser at Vancouver’s newest live music venue, Alexander Gastown (91 Powell St.) on March 22. Click here to see the event flyer.
Long-time homie and Pharcyde affiliate Fatlip will be performing at the event along with Grammy Award-winning producer Chin Injeti and local veterans DJ Kemo, Kyprios, Snak The Ripper, Tre Nyce, up-and-comers Sailor Gerry, The X Presidents, Northwest Division, Kids, Aspire and locally famous DJ Flipout on the hosting duties.
Swift expresses his gratitude to his supporters: “I’ve got a lot of support. My family has been support. People here have been really supportive. Im blessed,” although the pain of missing his family is clear. “My son’s in college, my other son’s in high school and they make music too. I was looking forward to getting back and seeing them. I just tell ’em I’m gonna beat this. There’s no way they can take my rights away.”
Written and photographed by KassKills for HipHopCanada
Twitter: @iamJSwift | @AlexGastown
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