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Band Playing SXSW Deported for Illegal Immigration

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Soviet Soviet, an Italian band that was scheduled to play three shows at this year’s SXSW, has deported upon arriving in the U.S. They were allegedly trying to enter the country illegally.

As reported by NME, the band posted their saga on their Facebook page. They arrived in Seattle on Wednesday with the necessary paperwork that said that they were not receiving payment for their SXSW performances or a promotional event at Seattle’s KEXP, which would have required work visas. However, the customs officials detained them for four hours, interrogating each member of the trio individually and calling the owner of their U.S. label.

After being told that they would be denied entry into the country, they were officially arrested, handcuffed and brought to jail, where they spent the night. The next day, they were sent on a plane back to Italy.

According to the band, the reason they were given is that two of the Austin venues at which they were playing were charging an entry fee and, even though they had documents saying that they would not be compensated at those shows, the officials were unconvinced and said they needed the necessary work visas.

It’s unknown if this is the same scenario from the controversy reported last week, where the festival had been, for several years, stipulating in their contracts that performing at unofficial events in Austin during the week of SXSW could lead to deportation. An image on the band’s Facebook page lists three dates in Austin next week, and while they say the shows are part of SXSW, the venue for only one of the gigs is mentioned. If any of the performances were unsanctioned, or if they had other shows that they didn’t mention, Soviet Soviet would be in violation of their contract.

However, in clarifying the festival’s policy, managing director Roland Swenson said that the policy was put into place in case the act did something “really egregious like disobeying our rules for pyrotechnics, starts a brawl in a club, or kills somebody. … because the festival sort of sponsored [the bands]. So, if somebody did something bad enough that we had to enforce this part of the contract, we would probably be obliged to notify immigration that, ‘Hey these guys are trouble,’ but we’ve never had to do that.”

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