SEATTLE (CN) – An Italian band set to play promotional concerts in Seattle and the South by Southwest festival in Texas was detained at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, declared “illegal immigrants,” arrested, jailed overnight and deported back to Italy Thursday, according to the band.
Soviet Soviet, an Italian alternative rock band, says they were “treated like criminals” after being detained at passport control March 8, according to a statement posted on the band’s Facebook page.
The three members told immigration officials they were only playing promotional concerts and would not be paid so they didn’t have work visas, according to the post.
“Subsequently, we were all called back and interrogated individually, in three different rooms. We were able to have the agents speak directly to the owner of our American label without any success, however. After almost 4 hours of questions they told us their verdict. They had decided to deport us back to Italy and deny us entry into the United States. 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,” according to the band.
Officers then took each band member’s mugshot and fingerprints, handcuffed them and took them to jail in a police car, where they stayed overnight, according to the post.
The next day they were taken back to the airport customs office and placed on a flight back to Italy.
“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. We knew that if we were to receive any compensation we would have had to apply for work visas. This was not the case and the people we spoke to for information told us we would be fine. We had not agreed on any payment whatsoever and the scheduled showcase performance at KEXP was most certainly not a paid performance,” the band said.
Members said they “tried to no end” to explain the situation, but there “was no way of convincing the officials.”
“I am sad, sickened and embarrassed that this happened in my country and in my city. This is beyond – I don’t even have words. I’m so sorry, thank you for the effort and I apologize for the direction this country has taken, not just the arts suffer but humanity. This is not acceptable,” John Richards, a DJ at KEXP radio station who helped organize Soviet Soviet’s Seattle show, said in a post on the band’s Facebook page.