SXSW officials said Texas's new illegal immigration law won't chase the festival from the state despite calls from two U.S. senators asking them to move it from Austin.
U.S. senators Bob Menendez, from New Jersey, and newly elected Catherine Cortez Masto, from Nevada, sent a letter to South by Southwest chief executive officer Roland Swenson about moving the celebrated conference and festival because of Senate Bill 4, KSAT-TV reported.
Senate Bill 4 makes sheriffs, constables, police chiefs and other local officials subject to Class A misdemeanor charges if they do not cooperate with federal authorities and honor requests from immigration agents to hold noncitizen inmates who are subject to deportation, the Texas Tribune noted.
The new law, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott last month, also allows police officers to question a person's immigration status during a detainment as opposed to being limited to a lawful arrest, noted the Tribune.
Critics and some law enforcement officials have slammed the law as unconstitutional, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
SXSW Conference and Festival, which started in Austin in 1987, has become a major international multi-day event celebrating the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries, featuring sessions, movie screenings, exhibitions, and keynote addresses. The 2018 SXSW will take place March 9-18, 2018.
"In its 31 years, SXSW has been a beacon of consistency, standing with artists and participants regarding equality, tolerance, and safety during events," Menendez and Cortez Masto wrote in trying to persuade Swenson, who has spoken out against SB4, to move the festival.
"SB4, however, would not allow SXSW to be a safe place for immigrants and Americans alike to visit, participate, and enjoy; the culture and safety of the event would be greatly diminished if your attendants are faced with the humiliation and harassment that this new law would inflict," the letter continued.
Swenson said in a statement that while he agreed with the senators, SXSW will stand with City of Austin officials to fight the bill, reported KSAT-TV.
"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 stated, per KSAT-TV. "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," he continued.
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