Ahead of SXSW 2018, Italian Singer Damien McFly’s detention and deportation may signal what could happen to foreign artists and bands.
Early last year, independent artists from other countries started freaking out.
Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration was the unfortunate backdrop. And SXSW was accused of changing the language in contracts with bands. The suspect terms and conditions suggested that South by Southwest organizers would report international artists to federal authorities.
Roland Swenson, SXSW’s co-founder and CEO, vowed to protect foreign artists last year. And he pointed to boilerplate language that really hadn’t changed. Separately, CBP officials denied at least three bands entry into the US. Some reports put that number at 10.
With Trump’s immigration policies now in full-effect, a new report has put foreign artists with ESTA or tourist visas on-edge.
Authorities have deported Italian singer Damiano Ferrari, better known by his stage name, Damien McFly. He had taken a flight from Venice to Los Angeles on January 26th to perform at the NAMM show, the world’s largest trade event for music products.
After getting off the plane, DHS officials detained and interrogated Ferrari for 26 hours. Speaking with PadovaOggi, an Italian magazine, the singer explained,
“ESTA is a very restrictive visa – actually I think it’s not even a real visa. And my showcase was not officially sponsored by the Italian government. So they declared me inadmissible, seized my phone and baggage and kept me in a detention room until I could take the next flight home, 26 hours – and some regret – later.”
Ferrari also described his stay in the detention room.
“I was stuck without phone and luggage in a room with other people with problems much worse than mine. I ate a pizza delivered by a policeman, and the following morning I received a call from the Italian Consulate.”
Following last year’s controversy, however, SXSW organizers told artists that they can perform unpaid showcases with a tourist visa. Yet, some foreign indie artists may not afford to pay. Fees for performance, or nonimmigrant worker, visas have skyrocketed in the past several years. At the end of 2016, the fees reportedly rose 42%.
Explaining the difficulty in paying for these visas, Matthew Covey, an immigration lawyer, wrote in IQ Mag,
“The process is so slow that almost everyone has to pay the government’s $1,225 ‘premium processing’ expediting fee… It’s so complex and unreliable that almost everyone has to hire a lawyer to get through it.”
The costs for a lawyer, added Covey, range from $800 to $8,000.
Featured image by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Public Domain)