SXSW removes controversial artist deportation rule

'In this political climate, especially as it relates to immigration, we recognize the heightened importance of standing together against injustice'

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SXSW will remove its controversial statements about immigration from its artist's contracts, after an outcry from both performers and attendees. 

In a statement posted to the festival's official website, the festival reaffirmed its deep opposition to Donald Trump's latest travel ban, while announcing it would change the language of its artist invitation letter and performance agreement for 2018 and beyond. "In this political climate, especially as it relates to immigration, we recognize the heightened importance of standing together against injustice," the statement reads.

Specifically, the contracts originally warned performers that violations that would "adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase" would result in the notification of "appropriate US immigration authorities", while also threatening that any international artists performing non-sanctioned shows could be immediately deported and have their passports revoked. 

This was particularly troubling to many in the music community, as acts are often known to play surprise and secret shows throughout the festival, though organisers remain against the trend. The clause became an intense point of discussion when band Told Slant posted a screenshot of the contract to Twitter and declared they would not be attending the festival in protest, with many other artists lending their support. 

However, SXSW's statement claims, "there are no 'deportation clauses' in our current performance agreements. There will be no 'deportation clauses' in our future participant agreements."


Furthermore, SXSW CEO and co-founder Roland Swenson has stated (via Variety) that the festival has never reported an international artist to immigration authorities before, and that the contract's language was meant to be a safeguard in case artists did something in the extreme, like start a brawl or cause safety issues. 

"Safety is a primary concern for SXSW," the festival statement reads. "and we report any safety issues to local authorities. It is not SXSW’s duty or authority to escalate a matter beyond local authorities."

SXSW takes place in Austin, 13-19 March.

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