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Yesterday, Told Slant’s Felix Walworth announced that they are canceling their performance at SXSW due to language in their contract that allows the festival to “notify the appropriate U.S. immigration authorities” if they “or their representatives have acted in ways that adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase.” Following Walworth’s post, a group of artists—including Downtown Boys, PWR BTTM, Priests and Sheer Mag—signed an open letter to SXSW, asking the festival to drop the deportation clause and issue an apology. Later that day, SXSW CEO and co-founder Roland Swenson issued a statement in which he said, “We have never reported international showcasing artists to immigration authorities.”
Today, SXSW has shared a new statement on its website that begins, “SXSW opposes discrimination of any kind.” Later, SXSW clarifies, “The language in our Performance Agreement is intended to facilitate U.S. entry for international artists and to show [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] that SXSW takes visa issues seriously. This language has been part of the contracts since the summer of 2013, and we will be reviewing and amending it for 2018 and beyond.” Read SXSW’s full statement below.
SXSW opposes discrimination of any kind, and has taken a public stand against President Trump’s travel ban and proposed legislation like SB6 in Texas. We have and will continue to support human rights for all. In this political climate, especially as it relates to immigration, we recognize the heightened importance of standing together against injustice.
SXSW has never reported anyone to any immigration authorities, including Customs & Border Protection (CBP), the agency that deals with participating artists entering the United States.
Participation from individuals and organizations who bring a different perspective — especially those who travel from all over the world — to Austin each March is what makes SXSW a special event.
We have been coordinating with international acts coming to SXSW to try and mitigate issues at U.S. ports of entry, and will continue to build a coalition of attorneys to assist any who face problems upon arrival in the States.
The language in our Performance Agreement is intended to facilitate U.S. entry for international artists and to show CBP that SXSW takes visa issues seriously. This language has been part of the contracts since the summer of 2013, and we will be reviewing and amending it for 2018 and beyond.
In regards to the situation surrounding Told Slant, before we had clarity on the situation we believed this artist had taken our language out of context. We apologize for this error.
A major reason for SXSW’s existence is the discovery of new and exciting artists from around the world, and our hope is that we can help these creative people achieve their goals.