SXSW and immigration: What people are saying

A tweet from Brooklyn-based musician Felix Walworth about South by Southwest’s contract put the festival in the middle of the immigration debate Thursday, and eventually caused other artists and festgoers to call for a boycott of the festival.

TINA PHAN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN. 03/21/15. Fans cheer for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as they perform at the Rachael Ray Feedback Party at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin, TX during South by Southwest (SXSW) on Saturday, March 21, 2015. Rachael Ray’s Feedback Party was back for its eighth year and featured music on three stages and Austin-inspired food cooked up by Ray.

Other artists, like Downtown Boys and comedian Hari Kondabolu, penned a letter to SXSW that demanded the conference drop the language from its contract: “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.”

South by Southwest managing director Roland Swenson said Thursday afternoon that the language in the contract about international artists playing the fest, and the repercussions should hose artists act up, is simply SXSW “telling the acts what immigration (authorities) would do” if terms of the visa were violated.

“Most South by Southwest acts are able to perform here on the condition that they’re not getting paid and they’re not doing any other shows than ours, “Swenson said. “That keeps them from having to go through getting a work visa and all that, which is time consuming and expensive.”

By Friday afternoon, multiple news outlets had written their take on the tweet, and many more people put their two cents in on Twitter.

Here’s some of the reactions we found as controversy swirled at the end of last week:

Over the weekend, the festival issued a statement: “The language in our Performance Agreement is intended to facilitate U.S. entry for international artists and to show CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) 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.”

Author: Staff Writer

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