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Globe & Mail: Vancouver-based metal band denied entry to U.S. for SXSW festival

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

03 BorderThe Globe & Mail today published an excellent article with Vancouver-based band Massive Scar Era, which was denied entry to the United States when trying to cross the border to play a showcase at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, TX. This story follows other recent reports of musicians, such as Italy’s Soviet Soviet, who have been denied entry, and even detained, at the U.S. border when entering the country to play shows.

According immigration lawyer Brian Taylor Goldstein when speaking with FYI Music News, “Artists entering with B- 1/B-2 visas or through the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) are being pulled aside the moment they say that they are ‘entertainers,’ ‘performers,’ or ‘artists.'”

It appears that as things become stricter and more unpredictable at the U.S. border under the Trump administration, foreign bands, including Canadians, are being effected. As Goldstein told FYI, even if a bands or artist won’t be paid for their performances in the U.S., it is advisable for them to get a P-2 visa, rather than rely on B-1 or B-2 visitor visas that may have previously been sufficient.

The following in from the Globe & Mail:

Before crossing the border at the Peace Arch from British Columbia into Washington State on Sunday to play the South by Southwest music festival, Cherine Amr did the new due diligence in the era of Donald Trump’s immigration ban: She deleted her Koran app from her phone, and made sure to erase text messages in Arabic.

“They get freaked out when they see Arabic,” Ms. Amr says. “We all do this now, every Muslim when they cross the border.”

Ms. Amr had done her homework: She had her documentation, including her Egyptian passport and a B-1 visa, as well as the invitation from SXSW.

It wasn’t enough. Ms. Amr’s band, Massive Scar Era, was denied entry.

“I don’t have to justify my reasons,” the border guard said, according to Ms. Amr, who lives in Burnaby.

“To be honest, the level of conversation was very respectful and calm,” she told The Globe and Mail. “He said I’m sorry I can’t do anything for you.”

Three people were in the car: Ms. Amr, who is from Egypt and is a permanent resident in Canada, where she has been living for about two years; bass guitarist Dylan Pieter Wijdenes-Charles, who also lives in Burnaby; and violinist Emily Jane Absalom, who lives in Vancouver and was to play in band member Nancy Mounir’s absence. Mr. Wijdenes-Charles and Ms. Absalom were both born in Canada.

Ms. Amr says they were told by a border officer that their B-1 visa – which had been granted by the U.S. consulate in Vancouver – was insufficient; they needed a P-2 visa. The band says it has played SXSW twice before and has used the B-1. They were to perform at a non-ticketed, free showcase and weren’t getting paid; rather, they had to pay a fee.

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