SXSW to Remain in Austin Despite Outcry Over Anti-Immigration Law

CEO Roland Swenson turns down a suggestion from two Senators to relocate next year’s South by Southwest event

Last Updated: June 7, 2017 @ 8:57 PM

SXSW (South by Southwest) CEO Roland Swenson has taken a stand against an unpopular Texas law.

Senate Bill 4 (SB4), which was passed in May of this year, effectively bans sanctuary cities in the state of Texas. According to Pitchfork, “[the] bill requires local officials to enforce federal immigration laws, and allows those officials to question the immigration status of anyone they arrest.”

Two U.S. Senators — Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) — recently sent a letter to Swenson, urging him to relocate SXSW for 2018 unless SB4 is repealed.

Although Swenson opposes the bill, he has no plans to choose an alternative location for the popular Austin film and music festival that he has overseen since 1987.

“We stand by the City of Austin in their challenge against SB4 and will continue to speak out against it, and all discriminatory legislation,” Swenson said in response to the Senators’ request. “We agree with the Senators that the law stands diametrically opposed to the spirit of SXSW and respect their call to action. We understand why, in today’s political climate, people are asking us to leave Texas.

“For us this is not a solution. 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.”

This is not the first time SXSW has faced immigration-related issues.

Earlier this year, the Brooklyn-based band Told Slant canceled its scheduled performance at the festival over language in its contract that threatened to deport foreign-born acts playing at “unofficial” performances during the March extravaganza.

Swenson initially defended the contract, saying “We understand that given the current political climate surrounding immigration, the language that was published seems strong. 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.”

The festival later reversed course, promising to “remove the option of notifying immigration authorities in situations where a foreign artist might ‘adversely affect the viability of Artist’s official showcase.'”

The 2018 SXSW will take place from March 9-18, 2018 in Austin.

For the record: A previous version of this story incorrectly stating that bands were denied entry to the U.S. due to SXSW contract language. That language instead prompted U.S.-based bands to cancel their appearance.