SXSW Organizers 'Reviewing and Amending' Immigration Clause After Uproar

South by Southwest has posted another statement addressing controversies over its performance agreement that contains a clause saying it would notify immigration authorities of bands violating its contract. The missive said that the organizers would be “reviewing and amending” the language in the contract for 2018 and the future, amid uproar online. The language had been a part of performance agreements since 2013, but only began to receive attention Thursday afternoon.

“In this political climate, especially as it relates to immigration, we recognize the heightened importance of standing together against injustice,” organizers wrote. “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 … 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.”

Since the frontperson of New York indie-rock group Told Slant tweeted out the section regarding performer conduct – ostensibly meant to discourage artists from playing nonsanctioned, unofficial parties – and said they would pull their band from their showcase, a number of other artists and labels have spoken out against the festival. Joe Steinhardt of Don Giovanni Records threatened to pull the entire label’s showcase if the festival did not amend its language, and the artists Anti-Flag and Immortal Technique issued their own statements.

Moreover, Downtown Boys’ Victoria Ruiz and Joey L. DeFrancesco created an open letter to South by Southwest expressing outrage and asking the fest to “drop this clause from their contract, and cease any collusion with immigration officials that puts performers in danger.” Artists who have signed the open letter include the previously mentioned artists, as well as Killer Mike, Ted Leo, Screaming Females, Kimya Dawson and Ceremony, among others.

In addition to saying it would reconsider its contracts next year, South by Southwest reiterated the festival’s opposition to Trump’s travel ban and similar legislation and restated that it had never turned any bands in to border police. “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,” it said.

It also addressed the band that first blew the whistle on the contract language. “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,” it said. “We apologize for this error.”

Read South by Southwest’s full statement:

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.

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