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SXSW artists cancel, slam Austin festival for deportation warnings in contract

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*FULL TAKE* The Samsung Studio At SXSW 2016 - Day 1 on March 11, 2016 in Austin, Texas.

AUSTIN – Austin is once again gearing up for SXSW, but there’s something really different this year — an alleged clause in the artist agreement contract has the annual music festival being pulled into the immigration debate.

Artist Told Slant posted part of the contract to Twitter, saying, “After looking through this contract sent to me by sxsw I have decided to cancel Told Slant’s performance at the festival.”

It’s the artist agreement’s part about, “International Artists entering the country through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), B visa or any non-work visa may not perform at any public or non-sanctioned SXSW Music Festival DAY OR NIGHT shows in Austin from March 13-19, 2017. Accepting and performing unofficial events may result in immediate deportation, revoked passport and denied entry by US Customs Border Patrol at US points of entry,” that’s causing controversy.

And they’re not the only ones. Plenty of other music acts have signed an open letter to SXSW, demanding the deportation clause be rescinded from the contract.

SXSW co-founder and CEO Roland Swenson issued a statement calling the situation “a misunderstanding,” and saying SXSW has never been put into a position to notify immigration of any artist’s actions. Swenson defended the language of the artist agreement, saying it is to protect SXSW and participating artists.

In addition to 1) removal of this portion of the contract, artists want 2) a public apology for SXSW’s “attempt to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” and 3) acknowledgement that the music festival is “a welcoming space for all artists, including immigrants and international performers, and finally 4) a commitment to “protecting the rights of all performers.”

SXSW 2017 takes place March 13-19 in Austin.

Here’s the full open and signed letter sent to SXSW:

An Open Letter to SXSW:

As artists and part of the musical community of SXSW, we’re outraged to learn that the festival has been threatening artists who are not U.S. citizens with targeted immigration enforcement and deportation for playing at unofficial showcases. In light of recent attacks on immigrant communities, this practice is particularly chilling. We are calling on SXSW to immediately drop this clause from their contract, and cease any collusion with immigration officials that puts performers in danger.

Austin, TX is a sanctuary city and these actions by SXSW show a disrespect for municipal policy. SXSW is a well respected institution and has a responsibility to show leadership by refusing to collaborate with the government’s campaign of fear and hate toward non-citizens.. This is a growing open letter with concrete demands that SXSW needs to take.

WE the artists who make SXSW possible demand the following:

  • SXSW must 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.”
  • SXSW must publicly apologize to the community for their attempt to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  • SXSW must affirm that it is a welcoming space for all artists, including immigrants and international performers, and commit to protecting the rights of all performers.

“SXSW has directly contributed to growing gentrification in our city. SXSW is responsible for the ongoing destruction of families homes and businesses. Locals here who play music and directly contribute to the economy can no longer live here due to stagnant wages and rising rental costs. We are one of the largest growing cities but all of our PoC are getting forced out because this ongoing culture is unsustainable. ICE is targeting hard working people in Austin so this comes as a slap in the face to everyone that lives here when we are already vulnerable and the administration wants to make an example of us because we a sanctuary city” Milo Royal, a musician and worker in Austin

We are white US citizens using that privilege to engage  with you, sxsw,  to reconsider colluding w/ ICE and thus, the Trump’s regime racist agenda. Please change your language and actively support and protect immigrant and non-white artists. -Priests, Sister Polygon Records

“I realize that this language has been in your agreement for many years (though that doesn’t mean it was ever right). This year, you have put on a showcase featuring artists from countries listed in the Muslim ban. The language in your artist agreements should reflect your support of these artists rather than besiege them. Please do the right thing and adjust your language to appropriately reflect the current political climate.” Joe Steinhardt, Don Giovanni Records

“Music knows no borders. SXSW bullying bands who have members that are not U.S. citizens is chilling, and frankly racist. It undermines artists’ basic rights to free speech, and sends the wrong message at a time when immigrant communities are facing an all out assault from the U.S. government.” – Evan Greer, musician and Campaign Director of Fight for the Future

“SXSW host’s a festival that has some potential benefits for artists. While it is a great time to get your music and possibly message out, there is a huge cost to artists. Many of us have to play underpaid shows in hopes that it can give our careers a boost in the future. If we had responsible arts and culture funding and support, we would not have to play SXSW in order to secure a financially viable future as touring musicians. So many of the artists playing the festival are addressing and confronting the very power structures that SXSW is perpetuating through their threats towards international musicians. We demand an end to their threats and a public apology for their anti-immigrant and therefore racist stated policy. Cities, counties, and states have all been urged to cease collaboration with ICE, we demand the same of music festivals.” Victoria Ruiz and Joey L DeFrancesco, Downtown Boys

With Much Concern,

Screaming Females
Downtown Boys
Aye Nako
Sheer Mag
Sister Polygon Records
Glory Fires
Evan Greer
Adam Torres
Don Giovanni Records
Sadie Dupuis/Sad13
La Neve
Helado Negro
Malportado Kids
Try the Pie
AJ Davila
Hari Kondabolu
Allison Crutchfield and the Fizz
Pygmy Lush
Patrick Ferguson (drummer in Mike Mills, Powder Room, more)
Yucky Duster
Immortal Technique
Shannon and the Clams
Dark Blue
Hank Wood and the Hammerheads
Jay Som
Emily Reo

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