Photo Credit: Raymond Flotat
After a controversial week, Pitchfork is reporting that SXSW has quickly promised to remove clauses from their performance contracts that indicated foreign artists face deportation for contract violations. The controversy began on March 2nd when New York City-based artist Felix Falworth posted on Twitter screenshots of his contract. Considering the controversial status of anything relating to deportation under the Trump Administration, it was a huge can of worms for the long-running Austin, TX music festival.
Artists quickly signed an open letter to the festival, including big-time names like Zach de la Rocha, Killer Mike, Atmosphere, Talib Kweli, Merchandise, Sadie Dupuis, Ceremony, Ted Leo, among many others. At that point the festival agreed to reconsider the phrases that caused such quick outrage.
“The letter and the quickly-spreading controversy led the festival to declaring they would reconsider the language. Today, the festival released a statement clarifying that they would be removed:
With the announcement of President Trump’s latest Travel Ban, SXSW would like to reaffirm its public opposition to these executive orders and provide ongoing support to the artists traveling from foreign countries to our event.
To reinforce that stance, we would like to address the concerns regarding the language in our artist invitation letter and performance agreement for the SXSW Music Festival.”
However, the language will not be changed this year; it will go into effect for artist contracts in 2018 and beyond. This includes removing the clauses that gave the festival the option to notify immigration authorities about foreign artists engaging in activities deemed to “adversely affect the viability of Artist’s official showcase.” The statement does stipulate that in efforts to protect the safety and security of performers and attendees, any safety issues will be reported to local law enforcement. The festival concedes that “It is not SXSW’s duty or authority to escalate a matter beyond local authorities.”
The statement goes on to remind the reader that the festival works to be in compliance with United States immigration law – however:
- SXSW has not, does not, and will not, disclose an artist’s immigration status, except when required by law.
- SXSW does not have the power to deport anyone.
- There are no “deportation clauses” in our current performance agreements. There will be no “deportation clauses” in our future participant agreements.
- SXSW does not “collude with” any immigration agencies including ICE, CBP or USCIS to deport anyone.
- Each year SXSW coordinates with hundreds of international acts coming to SXSW to try and mitigate issues at U.S. ports of entry. This year we are working to build a coalition of attorneys to assist any who face problems upon arrival in the States.
- In the 31 years of SXSW’s existence, we have never reported any artist or participant to any immigration agency.
The statement concludes with an apology to the community and a reaffirmation of the event as a safe space for everyone in the community.