SXSW is without a doubt one of the biggest entertainment events in the country, touching on virtually every genre of music along with several other mediums, attracting artists and fans from all walks of life. For anyone who has been paying attention to politics for the last decade knows that immigration is kind of a hot button issue, especially with this current administration. One target in the immigration issue has been sanctuary cities. A sanctuary city is any cit that limits its cooperation with the federal government to enforce immigration to avoid the blanketing fear of deportation or families being broken-up.
Texas, arguably the most conservative state in the country, recently passed a piece of legistlation this past month that cracks down on illegal immigration. The new bill establishes civil and crimanl penalties for local law enforcement who ignore or fail to comply with requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to extend the detentions of inmates suspected of being illegal immigrants. The bill also prohibits sheriffs and police chiefs from keeping their officers from asking for papers, essentially ridding any chance of a sanctuary city.
Tuesday, Democratic Seantors Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada sent a letter to SXSW CEO and co-founder Roland Swenson, where they urged him to relocate the 2018 festival until the new legislation was repealed, though Swenson declined to move.
“Austin is our home and an integral part of who we are,” Swenson said in a statement. “We will stay here and continue to make our event inclusive while fighting for the rights of all.”
Swenson did however condemn the new bill, calling it “diametrically opposed to the spirit of SXSW,” and states that he “understand[s] why, in today’s political climate, people are asking us to leave Texas.”
However, this isn’t the first time SXSW has appeared in the news when it comes to immigration. Ahead of this year’s festival in March, SXSW recently came under fire for what appeared to some as anti-immigrant language. In the performance agreement, several artists argued that the language used allowed the festival to notify immigration authorities of bands who did not abide by the contract, such as playing an unofficial showcase, though the organizers eventually amended the agreement.
Check out a recap of our coverage of SXSW 2017 here.