An Italian band on its way to several U.S. concerts was denied entry and detained in Seattle.
In a Facebook post, the group Soviet Soviet says the three band members arrived in Seattle March 8. No band member had visa paperwork, but instead had an ESTA document. ESTA is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization which determines eligibility of visitors to travel in the United States without a visa.
The group claimed they were interrogated for four hours about their plans, which included a performance at SXSW in Austin. Their first performance was with KEXP in Seattle.
U.S. Customs and Border protection determined the group needed visas. While the group was not receiving payment, it was considered a promotional trip based on the group’s Facebook post.
“We left Italy headed towards the US 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,” according to the post.
U.S. Customs and Border protection spokesman would not comment on a specific incident, but did say the group should have applied for a visa.
“If an individual is a member of an internationally recognized entertainment group, they must apply for and be granted a P-1 visa,” said Jason Givens.
“It is important to note that issuance of a visa or a visa waiver does not guarantee entry to the United States,” Givens said. “A CBP officer at the port of entry will conduct an inspection to determine if the individual is eligible for admission under U.S. immigration law.”
After CBP decided the group needed visas, the members were told they would be deported and sent back to Italy.
In the posting, Soviet Soviet said they were searched, handcuffed and jailed overnight. Their personal items, including phones, were confiscated so they could not call their families or friends.
“From that moment onwards, we became three illegal immigrants and were treated like criminals,” Soviet Soviet wrote on Facebook.
The group claims they spent the night in jail before being brought back to the airport and put on a plane back to Italy.
However, U.S. Customs and Border said detainees are typically kept in detention centers, not jails. They also commented on the detention procedures at Sea-Tac International Airport:
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.