Texas Republicans want to ban these foreign-born citizens from buying land

Houston officials rallied downtown Monday against a bill filed by Texas Republicans that's being called "unconstitutional and discriminatory."

Photo of Kennedy Sessions
The City of Houston and Texas elected officials held a rally at City Hall on Monday Jan. 23 to express their opposition of Texas Republicans recent legislation to ban four countries from owning land in the state. 

The City of Houston and Texas elected officials held a rally at City Hall on Monday Jan. 23 to express their opposition of Texas Republicans recent legislation to ban four countries from owning land in the state. 

Kennedy Sessions

Around 100 Houstonians and elected officials held a rally in front of City Hall on Monday to express their opposition to Texas' Senate Bill 147—a measure that, if passed, would ban citizens and foreign entities from China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia from buying land in the state. 

A one-page bill drafted by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst’s (R-Brenham) explains that the legislation applies to any governmental entity and individual citizens of those countries. In addition to citizens and governmental entities, this bill would impact companies tied "directly or indirectly" to the government of those four countries. 

Speakers at Monday's event said this legislation resembles previous anti-foreigner legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and stokes hate against the Asian community in particular.

"We should target no one," state Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) said. "We should not target China; we should not target Russia; we should not target any place because their people from those countries are not the same as those countries. The Chinese Exclusion Act was wrong in 1883 and wrong in 2023."

Hate crimes against the AAPI community spiked in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. At the time, former President Donald Trump is on the record for referring to COVID-19  as the "China virus."

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Alongside Wu, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner held a picture of Wu's childhood home. A home he said his immigrant parents bought and couldn't have if this legislation was in place at the time.

In addition to Wu, other elected officials, organization leaders, and community members said the legislation is outright discriminatory, unconstitutional, xenophobic, and federally illegal. 

Despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement this week that he would sign SB 147 into law, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) said Abbott should reassess his support for the bill and that she would introduce counter legislation to nullify it. 

"It's wholly wrong because property can't be taken without due process," Lee said. "It will be our duty as members of the U.S. Congress to bring relief if the governor decides to sign this bill. Gov. Abbott, I think it is wise that you think once, twice, three times, about signing this hardly reasonable and unconstitutional bill."

More than 7 percent of Harris County identifies as Asian, according to the 2022 U.S. Census Bureau. Houston has the largest AAPI community in the state, and for decades Asian Town in the southwest of the city has been a landmark for any native Houstonian or transplant. 

"It is immoral; it is against the American spirit," Houston resident Kevin Yu said. As a Chinese immigrant with permanent resident status, Yu said this legislation would negatively impact him and his wife, fellow Houston resident Claire Liang. 

In addition to the discriminatory practices in the legislation, Houston real estate broker Lyndon Yao said this bill could have a severe negative impact on the state economy and small business owners. "We all work hard, pay taxes, and raise families here," Yao said. "We need to stop that to let the legislatures hear our voice. The state of Texas is one of the booming states in America, and the real estate is one of the drivers of the economy."

RiseAAPI, an organization that organizes around issues supporting the AAPI community, said they are planning a trip to Austin next week to speak with lawmakers on the bill. 

"It's another way of the Republicans at the Texas House trying to institute policies that oppress people of color, and they are using political situations that are more rooted in foreign policy predicaments than they are in anything that's actually real," said Nabila Mansoor, executive director of Rise AAPI. "There is no real threat. This can have a real problematic effect on our economy. 

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