Italian band Soviet Soviet published a long statement on their Facebook earlier today about how their attempt to come to the United States for SXSW ended in disaster, when they were held at customs when they arrived in the U.S. on Wednesday at Seattle airport, and after four hours of questioning, were deemed to be here illegally and sent back to Italy.
The statement touches on some of the questions raised in the kerfuffle last week about the language dealing with immigration legislation in the standard SXSW contract; according to Soviet Soviet, they were entering the U.S. on a visa waiver, because their SXSW showcases were unpaid promotional appearances. According to the band, they had an official SXSW invitation, setting out the terms of their appearances, as proof of this, a fact that immigration officials apparently ignored: “Control agents who did a quick check on the concerts we informed them of noticed that two of the venues were asking for entry fees and this was enough to convince them that we needed work visas instead of an ESTA.”
After the decision to deport them was made, the band says that they were treated “like criminals”:
They took our digital fingerprints and took mugshots of us for their file. They confiscated our cell phones and we were denied the possibility of contacting our families and loved ones. Around 10:30pm, two prison officers frisked us, handcuffed us and brought us to jail in a police car. We spent the night in jail and had been escorted there as though we were three criminals. The following day, after having completed all jail-related procedures (mugshots, declaration of good health and signatures), two other agents came to get us. We were searched, handcuffed and again escorted in a police car.
They took us to the customs office we were in the previous day and we waited for our return flight which was scheduled for around 1:00pm local time. Only a short while prior to taking off were we able to get back our cell phones and bags and we were escorted right up to the airplane. We were relieved to fly back home and distance ourselves from that violent, stressful and humiliating situation.
More information on this as we get it. You can read the band’s full Facebook statement here.