South by Southwest organizers rushed to explain a portion of their contract that warns immigration authorities may be notified if foreign musicians break festival rules.
The music and tech festival, which begins March 10 in Austin, Texas, came under attack Thursday when Brooklyn-based musical act Told Slant canceled a scheduled appearance because of language in the contract.
The section says organizers reserve the right to “notify the appropriate U.S. immigration authorities” if “showcasing acts or their representatives have acted in ways that adversely affect the viability” of the festival.
Another section warns that “accepting and performing in unofficial events may result in immediate deportation.”
Festival CEO and co-founder Robert Swanson said in a statement that the stipulations have been in performance agreements for years and that immigration officials have never been contacted about any international artist.
“We understand that given the current political climate surrounding immigration, the language that was published seems strong,” Swanson said. “Violating U.S. immigration law has always carried potentially severe consequences, and we would be remiss not to warn our participating acts of the likely repercussions.”
He worried that the contractual language would be misconstrued to suggest the festival’s policies were similar to President Donald Trump’s attempts to limit refugees and expel undocumented immigrants. With performers coming from 62 countries, Swanson said there will be attorneys to help any who encounter immigration trouble.
Swanson also said that Felix Walworth, who performs as Told Slant, had not contacted SXSW about the immigration language.
“It is, and always was intended to be, a safeguard to provide SXSW with a means to respond to an act that does something truly egregious, such as disobeying our rules about pyrotechnics on stage, starting a brawl in a club, or causing serious safety issues,” he said.
Swanson had initially accused Walworth of doctoring the contract. He told the Austin American-Statesman that two different sections together were pasted together in Walworth’s tweet to form “a much worse impression than what is real.”
A subsequent video tweeted by Walworth, however, appeared to show that he had not distorted it.
Representatives of Told Slant did not immediately respond to The Huffington Post’s inquiries.