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SXSW: BORDERS AND BOUNDARIES

You may have heard that SXSW is playing immigration police. According to its standard artist contract, it will “notify the appropriate U.S. Immigration authorities of the above actions,” adding that “accepting and performing at any non-sanctioned events may result in immediate deportation, revoked passport, and denied entry by U.S. Customs Border Patrol at U.S. points of entry.”

But the contract language, shared by Told Slant’s Felix Walworth on Twitter, has apparently been in the contract for several years. But in Trumpworld, everyone is paying closer attention. Told Slant’s already pulled out, and encouraged others to boycott.  But SXSW Managing Director Roland Swenson told Austin 360 that Slant’s tweet gave “a much worse impression than what is real.”

So what is real? Swenson issued a statement that SXSW are not themselves threatening performers with deportation; merely, they reserve the right to report them to immigration officials if they behave badly.

“We were sorry to learn that one of our invited performers chose to cancel his performance at this year’s SXSW Music Festival due to a misunderstanding of our policies regarding international artists,” he said. “We have never reported international showcasing artists to immigration authorities.”

The language is apparently designed to protect the festival against egregious behavior by international artists, such as “disobeying our rules about pyrotechnics on stage, starting a brawl in a club or causing serious safety issues,” according to Swenson.

Swenson added that the law allows foreign acts to perform showcases without a work visa, but in order for them to perform non-showcase events, a work visa is required, per U.S. immigration law.

It may be a cover-your-ass addendum, but in the age of Trump, it’s raised the eyebrows of everyone heading to Austin.

On 3/3, Austin360 published an open letter, signed by multiple artists, demanding changes in the immigration language of the contract. The letter insists the festival:

rescind the portion of their contract that states that if they found out that an artist is playing an unofficial showcase they will 'notify the appropriate U.S. Immigration authorities of the above actions,’ and ‘accepting and performing at any non-sanctioned events may result in immediate deportation, revoked passport, and denied entry by US Customs Border Patrol at US points of entry.'

Dave Dart, whose Dart Music nonprofit brings international artists to SXSW, defended the organizers in the same piece. "South by Southwest has been a great platform for international artist for years and years," he insists. "They provide an opportunity for bands to get here, and it accomplishes really good things."

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