AUSTIN - An Italian band scheduled to perform at SXSW and a string of other cities this upcoming week didn't even make it out of Seattle before they were sent packing back to Europe, according to a Facebook post.
The band Soviet Soviet wrote in a publicized statement that they were expected to perform at a series of promotional concerts in the United States for no pay.
The group claimed that when they arrived at an airport in Seattle, they would only need to provide a letter from their American label that stated their purpose in the country, which also included a written invitation with information about SXSW.
However, the group said on Facebook they were unable to get through passport control and were detained for almost four hours of questioning.
"They declared us illegal immigrants even if our intention was by no means to look for work in the United States nor never go back to Italy," Soviet Soviet said in a statement on Facebook.
The group claims they were handcuffed and escorted in a police car before customs took over. They reportedly spent the night in jail before being given their flight information to return back to Italy.
The group asserted that the control agents did a "quick check' on the events they were scheduled to perform at, including two venues that were charging entry fees. As a result, the group said the agents concluded that Soviet Soviet could not be in the country without a work visa.
"We left Italy headed towards the U.S. with all necessary documents, passports and various declarations in which we clearly explained the purpose of our tour, confirming it is was strictly promotional and that we were in no way going to earn money from it or receive any form of payment," the group said in a Facebook post. "We knew that if we were to receive any compensation we would have had to apply for work visas."
Soviet Soviet ended their statement by not only apologizing to their fans but also to the venues, SXSW and KEXP radio for canceling their American tour.
KEXP radio, a Seattle station, reached out to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for a comment about the situation. They were told that Soviet Soviet did not have the proper visas in order to play music in the United States.
KEXP published this statement on their website from DHS about using handcuffs and prison cells to detain musicians without proper visas:
When a traveler is deemed inadmissible, CBP makes every effort to return the traveler without delay. CBP does not have an overnight detention facility at the airport. Therefore, it is standard procedure for any traveler who is deemed inadmissible and is awaiting return travel to be taken to a detention center until return travel is available. According to CBP policy, it is standard procedure to restrain a traveler who is being transported to a detention facility. The use of restraints on detainees during transport is in a manner that is safe, secure, humane, and professional. It is the responsibility of officers to ensure that the need and level of restraints used is consistent with the operational office’s policies and procedures. At no time are restraints used in a punitive manner or in a manner that causes detainees undue pain.
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