US authorities' crackdown on performers using ESTAs or B visas shows no signs of easing in 2018, as up-and-comer Damien McFly is blocked from showcasing in California
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With SXSW itself under fire for apparently threatening artists with deportation, the Italian would-be performers have been labelled illegal immigrants by US authorities
By IQ on 13 Mar 2017
Soviet Soviet, an Italian band en route to Texas showcase festival South by Southwest (SXSW), have been deported as “illegal immigrants” by US immigration authorities.
The trio were judged to be lacking the proper paperwork after arriving in Seattle on an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), a visa waiver programme for citizens of several, most European, countries.
Although ESTA travellers are barred from undertaking commercial activities, Soviet Soviet and their US label, Felte Records, argued unsuccessfully that their SXSW showcases were for promotional purposes only, and that they would receive no payment for playing.
In a joint statement, the band say immigration officers “interrogated [us] individually, in three different rooms. We were able to have the agents speak directly to the owner of our American label, without any success.
“After almost four hours of questions they told us their verdict: They had decided to deport us back to Italy and deny us entry into the United States. They declared us illegal immigrants, even if our intention was by no means to look for work in the United States nor never go back to Italy.”
Although Soviet Soviet say they “accepted the decision, as it seemed final at that point”, the band were – as ‘illegal immigrants’ – then treated as such, spending the night in prison.
“We spent the night in jail, escorted there as though we were three criminals”
“They took our digital fingerprints and took mugshots of us for their file,” the statement continues. “They confiscated our cellphones and we were denied the possibility of contacting our families and loved ones. Around 10.30pm, two prison officers frisked us, handcuffed us and brought us to jail in a police car. We spent the night in jail, and had been escorted there as though we were three criminals.
“The following day, after having completed all jail-related procedures (mugshots, declaration of good health and signatures), two other agents came to get us. We were searched, handcuffed and again escorted in a police car.
“They took us to the customs office we were in the previous day and we waited for our return flight, which was scheduled for around 1.00pm local time. Only a short while prior to taking off were we able to get back our cellphones and bags, and we were escorted right up to the aeroplane. We were relieved to fly back home and distance ourselves from that violent, stressful and humiliating situation.”
The incident comes after SXSW itself was criticised earlier this month for appearing to threaten foreign bands with deportation if they play unofficial shows around the conference.
Told Slant, a musician booked to play SXSW, pulled out after finding a clause in his contract stating the event “will notify the appropriate US immigration authorities” if an artist acts in a way deemed to “adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase”.
After looking through this contract sent to me by sxsw I have decided to cancel Told Slant's performance at the festival pic.twitter.com/rI2Xv0duJl
— Told Slant (@Felixixix666) March 2, 2017
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