In light of the deportation-related language in SXSW’s artist contracts, acts like Downtown Boys, Helado Negro, AJ Dávila, Immortal Technique, Crocodiles, and many more have signed an open letter expressing their outrage. The artists are asking the festival to drop the deportation clause, which suggests SXSW would communicate with immigration authorities if an international artist plays unofficial showcases.
In the letter, Downtown Boys vocalists Victoria Ruiz and Joey L. DeFrancesco elaborate on the struggle and financial investment of up-and-coming bands who play the festival. They explain that SXSW offers many young bands benefits that would otherwise be unavailable to them. “We demand an end to their threats and a public apology for their anti-immigrant and therefore racist stated policy,” they added.
Joe Steinhardt, the head of Downtown Boys’ former label Don Giovanni Records, notes that the festival has put together a showcase featuring artists from countries affected by Trump’s Muslim ban. Steinhardt urges SXSW to adjust the language in the contracts to better reflect their support.
Immigration has become a hot-button issue in the U.S. in recent weeks. In addition to the Muslim ban, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been actively targeting people for deportation with widespread raids. SXSW’s policy has been in place for years, yet the current political climate makes it even more of a sensitive matter.