“We will stay here and continue to make our event inclusive while fighting for the rights of all.”
SXSW will remain in its hometown of Austin, despite pleas from a couple of US senators to relocate the festival until Texas lifts its ban on sanctuary cities.
This request comes on the heels of SB4, a bill that strictly enforces anti-immigration laws and practices in the state. The law stretches the authority over undocumented immigrants so far that even a citizen that turns someone into ICE cannot be sued for complying for the law.
Earlier this week, Nevada Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez penned a letter to SXSW CEO Roland Swenson beseeching him to find somewhere else to host the longstanding and influential event:
“Throughout its 31 years, SXSW has been a beacon of consistency, standing with artists and participants regarding equality, tolerance, and safety during events. SB4, however, would not allow SXSW to be a safe place for immigrants and Americans alike to visit, participate, and enjoy; the culture and safety of the event would be greatly diminished if your attendees are faced with the humiliation this new law would inflict. Not only does this law stand against what SXSW stands for but also what we fundamentally stand for as a nation that believes in basic dignity and respect for all.”
Swenson wrote in response: “Austin is our home and an integral part of who we are… We will stay here and continue to make our event inclusive while fighting for the rights of all.” But the festival came under fire earlier this year when artists set to perform at South By back in March found clauses in their contracts stipulating that the festival would act in accordance to immigration laws.
After the outrage, Swenson agreed to remove the item from the contracts and to rethink it for the future. Based on the makeup of SB4, it doesn’t seem protecting artists from outside of the United States is even in SXSW’s purview.