Texas

Texas GOP lawmakers want to ban certain foreign citizens from buying real estate. Democrats hit back.

A group of Texas Democrats has denounced bills they say are discriminatory and could negatively impact the state’s growing economy.

The bills, Senate Bill 147 and House Bill 1075, together would ban governments and citizens of China, Iran, North Korea and Russia from buying real estate in the state.

State Assemblyman Gene Wu, D-Houston, said the two laws are similar to those passed at the federal level in the 1880s to alienate Asians, such as China’s Exclusion Act.

“When this law speaks of citizenship of another country, they speak of people who have waited patiently in line, sometimes for decades, to become American citizens. That’s who this bill is after,” Wu told reporters on Wednesday. “This is a story of citizenship that everyone in the Asian community understands and has experienced, whether they themselves or their family.”

Wu and a group of Democratic lawmakers vowed to crack down on the bills before they go ahead.

But Republicans who support the measures say they are trying to protect Texas from foreign forces.

State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, is the sponsor of SB 147, which would ban citizens, governments and other entities from the four countries from acquiring property.

In a statement, Kolkhorst said their legislation “addresses a national security issue and will uphold our cherished private property rights and constitutional freedoms.”

The legislature has not specified how much land in Texas is owned by foreign citizens.

“It does not prohibit foreign corporate investment in Texas, as corporations can continue to do business by leasing land and buildings,” Kolkhorst said in her statement. “The bill will make it crystal clear that the bans do not apply to United States citizens and lawful permanent residents.”

HB 1075 would prohibit any foreign government, or any corporation controlled by a foreign government, from owning agricultural land in the state. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Cody Harris, R-Palestine, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a joint statement with two other state officials, he said: “This law sends a strong message to those foreign governments that continually threaten America’s economic and security interests: We will no longer tolerate your attempts to undermine democracy — not abroad.” and not on our own soil.”

It is too early in the legislature to know if the bills will pass. Republicans in the Legislature have banded together behind the effort.

In a tweet last week, Gov. Greg Abbott said he would sign SB 147 if it got on his desk.

State MP Salman Bhojani, D-Euless, said Abbott’s comments were concerning.

Bhojani is from Pakistan and in November became one of only two Muslims ever elected to the Texas legislature.

He said the law could set a precedent.

“What starts in Texas changes the world,” Bhojani said. “Where our legislature goes, the whole country follows, which is why this legislation is so troubling.”

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