South by Southwest is supporting the city of Austin in opposing Senate Bill 4, a bill which opposes the creation of “sanctuary cities” in Texas and enables police to question individuals at random about their immigration status and deport them at will. The bill, signed into law in May, requires local law enforcement to comply with federal officers’ deportation orders and detain candidates for deportation. SXSW’s CEO, Ronald Swenson, filed an affadavit yesterday in Texas court supporting of the City of Austin’s lawsuit against the state on the basis of the bill.
Swenson issued a statement about the festival’s opposition to SB4. “We are concerned that SB4 will substantially limit the participation of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in SXSW and limit the diversity and quality of the event,” he wrote. “This decrease in participation will also diminish our substantial economic contribution to the City of Austin and the State of Texas.”
The festival is also ignoring entreaties from local Democratic senators to move the festival until the bill, which was signed in May and will go into effect on September 1, has been repealed. However, Swenson is continuing to oppose this measure.
“SXSW was born in Austin,” he wrote. “The event is steeped in the city and the city is our home. We stand behind the City and Mayor Adler, and we intend to stay and fight discriminatory legislation that hinders civil rights, while continuing to work to make our events inclusive and safe for all who attend.”
This year, SXSW suffered criticism for an aggressive clause in their artists contract that appeared to threaten deportation for participants that behaved “in ways that adversely [impact] the viability of Artist’s official SXSW showcase.” The clause was eventually removed. Multiple participants in the festival this summer were also turned away at the border by Customs over visa issues.