Politics

Local, state officials condemn proposed bill that forbids people, businesses from certain countries from owning Texas land

The bill would forbid governments, businesses, and individuals with ties China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia from buying property in Texas. 

Ashley Brown / Houston Public Media
Protesters rally in front of city hall to denounce SB 147.

A senate bill filed in the Texas legislature that would prohibit the sale of land to people or entities with ties to certain foreign countries is facing backlash. State and local officials gathered in front of city hall on Monday to denounce Senate Bill 147.

Senate Bill 147 was filed in November of 2022 by Republican State Senator Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham. Kolkhorst represents District 18, which includes parts of the Houston area. The bill would forbid governments, businesses, and individuals with ties China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia from buying property in Texas.

“After an unprecedented rise in anti-Asian hate around the nation, our communities continue to struggle against not only violence within our society, but with political persecution as well," State Representative Gene Wu said in a statement. “SB 147 is discriminatory, hateful, and brings back painful reminders of laws passed a hundred years ago that specifically prevented Chinese individuals from owning property, starting businesses, or even marrying the person they love."

Wu is an Asian-American who immigrated from China as a child. He said his family moved here to have a better life for themselves, not to be targeted.

"What did my parents do to them, how are they a danger, how did they do anything other than have good jobs, pay taxes, and be good people around the community," he said.

A prior statement released by Senator Kolkhorst said the bill addresses a growing concern in protecting Texas land against foreign government ownership.

Mayor Sylvester Turner was also in attendance during the press conference. He said with Houston being a very diverse city, the bill would affect a lot of individuals who immigrated here from those targeted countries.

"Senate Bill 147 is just down right wrong," he said. "It is more divisive than anything else. Houston, the most diverse city in the United States, stands as one to say that we all should stand against 147 – this is not the way to start 2023."

Those who opposed the bill argued that it targets asylum seekers and green card holders, but a statement released by Kolkhorst said the prohibition does not apply to United States citizens and lawful permanent residents, also known as green card holders.

"It does not prohibit foreign business investment in Texas, because companies may still do business by leasing land and buildings," she said. "The bill will make crystal clear that the prohibitions do not apply to United States citizens and lawful permanent residents – this has always been about common-sense safeguards against Russian, North Korean, Chinese and Iranian authoritarian regimes, not those fleeing the tyranny of those governments who seek freedom in Texas.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott showed support for the proposed bill by tweeting last week he will sign the bill.

This bill comes after Gov. Abbott signed the Lone Star Infrastructure Protection Act in 2021 – that prohibits Texas Governments and businesses from entering contracts with foreign-owned companies that include China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia – as it relates to critical infrastructure.

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