In December, a bill targeting immigrants from certain countries was introduced in the Texas state Senate — and unfortunately it’s gaining steam.
Senate Bill 147, written by Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, would ban people (or businesses) with Chinese, North Korean, Iranian or Russian citizenship from owning a home or property in Texas. For the record, federal law extends the right to home and land ownership to individuals regardless of citizenship status.
Republicans who support the bill believe it is a matter of national security, according to NBC News.
Last month, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted his support for the measure, which he has claimed would prevent people from countries with “hostile interests” — China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran — from “buying up” farmland.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Texas has the largest amount of acreage owned by foreign investors of any U.S. state. A Chinese billionaire purchased 140,000 acres of this land, according to Forbes.
Now, many members of Texas’ Chinese immigrant community — who they say no longer feel welcome and safe in the state — fear for their future. Activists and politicians who deem the proposed legislation xenophobic say that it’s reminiscent of America’s tradition of using Asian communities as scapegoats during periods of heightened political conflict. These attitudes have always existed in the U.S., dating farther back than the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited Chinese migration for 40 years.
And while Abbott says the ban will not affect permanent residents of Chinese descent, the bill is clearly fueled by an anti-Asian sentiment.
Chinese American activist Ling Luo, who has been organizing on the ground in Texas, echoed concerns about how the bill will affect the average person working toward the American dream (rather than Chinese billionaires).
“Their fear is: ’I just got my green card. I can’t buy property anymore ... Renting is not as great as the freedom of owning your own house,’” Luo said in an interview with NBC.
SB 147 may feel like an isolated problem in a state whose leadership is out of touch with what actually makes America great, but it’s worth paying attention to. With bans on books, abortions, and “critical race theory” still burning like wildfire, my eyes are on any proposal meant to limit the rights of marginalized people.