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SXSW Immigration Policy Upsets Performers

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South By Southwest (SXSW) the incredibly popular music festival has found itself at the center of some controversy. At issue is a provision in their contract for performers. The language implies they can turn performers who do unauthorized shows in to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials if they want to. The performers could then be deported. When organizers work with international musicians, they work with them to secure any visas they may need.

Told Slant Responded by Canceling SXSW Show

Felix Walworth from Told Slant, a band based in Brooklyn, posted part of the contract on his Twitter page. According to him, the contract reads:

If SXSW determines, in its sole discretion, that Artist or its representatives have acted in ways that adversely affect the viability of Artist’s official SXSW showcase, the following actions are available:

     Artist will be removed from their official SXSW showcase and, at SXSW’s sole option, replaced.

     Any hotels booked via SXSW Housing will be canceled.

     Artist’s credentials will be canceled.

     SXSW will notify the appropriate U.S. immigration authorities of the above actions.

Walworth said, “After looking through this contract sent to me by SXSW I have decided to cancel Told Slant’s performance at the festival. I’m not interested in aligning myself with an institution that interacts with immigration authorities as a means of controlling where art is shared and performed, and who makes money off of it.” The tweet was shared hundreds of times within a few hours.

SXSW Responds to the Controversy

Roland Swenson, CEO and co-founder of SXSW issued a statement about the controversy.

Language governing SXSW’s ability to protect a showcase has been in the artist Performance Agreement for many years. It is, and always was intended to be, a safeguard to provide SXSW with a means to respond to an act that does something truly egregious, such as disobeying our rules about pyrotechnics on stage, starting a brawl in a club, or causing serious safety issues.”

In addition to the cancellation of the Told Slant show, the Downtown Boys’ Victoria Ruiz has started a petition to take that clause out of the contract.

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