Add three more bands to the list who won’t play at this year’s SXSW.
An Italian band arrived in the United States this week, ready to play at this year’s SXSW in Austin. In their hands, the group held a letter stating that they wouldn’t receive payment for their festival performance. Yet, upon arrival, immigration officials detained the group at passport control.
Officials called the three group members into three separate interrogation rooms. The group managed to have the officials call their American label agent. After four hours of questioning, Customs and Border Protection officials made their decision: they had to deport the group back to Italy.
Despite their intention not to work for money in the US, immigration banded the group illegal immigrants. Officials confiscated their cell phones and refused them the opportunity to contact loved ones. They also took mugshots and digital fingerprints.
After handcuffing them, two prison officers frisked them and brought them to jail. The group passed the night in jail.
Soviet Soviet shared their story with the world via a lengthy Facebook post. The group, now labeled immigrants and criminals, apologized to fans and canceled their US tour. However, the group isn’t alone in facing US bans for wanting to perform at SXSW.
Yesterday afternoon, Brownswood Recordings announced that drummer Yussef Dayes had his visa revoked “at the 11th hour.” He performs with London-based duo Yussef Kamal and United Vibrations, alongside his brothers, Ahmed and Kareem. They also faced similar last-minute revocations.
The label went on to add that Yussef Kamal believes the decision based on religious and racial discrimination. The Dayes brothers would’ve arrived today, according to a statement from Brownswood. United Vibrations said,
“We are sad to announce we will NOT be performing at SXSW in Texas because our ESTA’s have been revoked under the new Executive Order. We were looking forward to connecting with our brothers and sisters stateside to share our music.
Why weren’t we let in? Our Names? The music? The color of our skin?””
Ahead of their performance, post-hardcore band Massive Scar Era posted a Facebook video. Based out of Vancouver, Canada, and Cairo, the video claims that US officials denied the group entry into the country. The group readily provided officials with the necessary paperwork, as did Soviet Soviet.
Massive Scar Era’s Facebook post reads,
“After providing all the necessary paperwork that proves that we are performing at SXSW under a B1 Visa, and after showing officer the SXSW official waiver that proved we don’t need P2 Visa to perform in SXSW! Even after calling the festival in front of the officer!!!! USA denied us Massive Scar Era to enter !!!!!!
“My passport (Egyptian) couldve been the issue. Our bassist is first nation! He is allowed to get in and work in USA whenever he wants to, the officer told him that his official first nation card ( releases by the canadian government) doesn’t prove he is first nation and he needs to get DNA test (lol) he told him that he did this already to get the card in the first place!
RIP USA SXSW”
Massive Scar Era had planned four American tour dates. The group would’ve played in Austin at SXSW, Denver, Provo, Utah, and Seattle. Cherine Amr, a native Egyptian and the group’s guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist, explains in the video the events. Amr claims that a CBP official questioned Dylan Pieter Wijdenes-Charles, the group’s bassist, over his ethnic identity. The explanation starts at 1:33.
“Dylan is a First Nation. He’s allowed to go to the States whenever he wants to, work whenever he wants to, because he’s First Nation. He [the CBP agent] looked at him and he’s like, ‘Next time when you come, you have to show a blood test that you’re First Nation.'”
NPR says that the official’s discriminatory comments may have violated the 1974 Jay Treaty. The treaty allows First Nation members and American Indians to freely cross the US-Canadian border for many reasons.
Danish EDM producer ELOQ also faced similar detention. He explains on Twitter that officials detained him, despite having the correct paperwork as verified by SXSW. He had traveled to the United States in an 11-hour long flight. CBP officials handcuffed and kept ELOQ in a “very bright room” and a “very unpleasant jail cell for 23 hours.”
11 hrs in this flying tin can and i will b in Austin for SXSW! If ur there this week and wanna hang holla @ ya boi, im fun and i love beers? pic.twitter.com/jRuGLqYARA
— DIAMONDS OUT NOW (@yo_ELOQ) 11 de marzo de 2017
craziest 24 hrs ever. Not going to SXSW, but back to Denmark. I been denied entry. ? even though i was informed by sxsw i had the right visa
— DIAMONDS OUT NOW (@yo_ELOQ) 13 de marzo de 2017
@yo_ELOQ ive been handcuffed and detained in a small very bright room plus a very unpleasant jail cell for 23 hours.. thats a first!
— DIAMONDS OUT NOW (@yo_ELOQ) 13 de marzo de 2017
ELOQ has since returned home and enjoyed playing Zelda on his new Nintendo Switch.
Many artists and fans may quickly blame Donald Trump for his executive orders. However, the fault may not lie completely with him. NPR explains that obtaining an O or P visa has proven difficult, even before Trump entered office.
“…If you’re a young, independent artist or band only starting to make your mark on the music scene — and hoping that a performance at an event like SXSW is going to boost your visibility to American bookers, agents, record labels and the like — it’s pretty improbable that the U.S. government is going to deem you “renowned.””
Lawyer Brian Taylor Goldstein explained that even after officials issue an O or P visa, individual immigration officers may choose to allow or refuse entry.
“An Immigration Officer has the unfettered authority and discretion to deny entry to any artist from any nationality for any reason. To what extent this authority will be exercised remains to be seen.”
Now, under Trump’s administration, petitioning for an O or P visa has become more difficult and time-consuming. Previously, officials could choose to waiver in-person interviews for O or P visa renewals. Today, in Section 9 of Trump’s latest executive order, all individuals seeking a non-immigrant visa must return to U.S. consulates for personal interviews.
Goldstein describes the added burden U.S. consulates and embassies will have to face under the latest executive order.