SXSW tend to be remembered by those who attend them for this great show or that wonderful discovery. But outside of the madcap Austin streets, the festivals years are demarcated by the worst possible thing that happened there. 2014 was on pace to be remembered as the year Lady Gaga became a living ad for Doritos until a horrific and tragic car accident left a stain on the entire festival. And if 2017’s SXSW is going to be remembered for anything, it’s the travel headaches and exclusionary rhetoric that international band’s suffered trying to get into President Trump’s newly cloistered America.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s second attempt at a travel ban from majority-Muslim countries, it seems even people coming from non-named locales are having trouble getting into the United States. London-based artist Yussef Dayes was scheduled to play several sets at SXSW in Austin, TX, but his status was revoked “at the 11th hour” in what he claims was a case of race and religion-based discrimination.
Dayes — who was denied entry along with his brothers Ahmed and Kareem — was expected to play both in his duo Yussef Kamaal and the family act United Vibrations. The latter band released a statement asking why their Visa Waiver Program status was revoked.
“We are sad to announce we will NOT be performing at SXSW in Texas because our ESTA’s have been revoked under the new Executive order. We were looking forward to connecting with our brothers and sisters stateside to share our music. Why weren’t we let in? Our Names? The music? The color of our skin?”
The ESTA program allows citizens around 40 countries to travel in the U.S. as a non-working tourist for up to 90 days. While visitors under the program aren’t allowed to work, the law does allows those traveling to meet up with people who might conduct future business with them. While it is not spelled out in the law, many international acts have used this exemption to perform at SXSW, an event packed with industry representatives who might sign their band.