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Racist Bills Popping Up in Multiple States To Ban Chinese Immigrants From Buying Homes

This is literally something out of 1882.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 20: Protestors hold signs that read "hate is a virus" and "stop Asian hate" at the End The Violence Towards Asians rally in Washington Square Park on February 20, 2021 in New York City. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, violence towards Asian Americans has increased at a much higher rate than previous years. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) reported a 1,900% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

The latest in a rising wave of anti-Asian racism/anti-immigrant xenophobia, two nearly identical bills proposed in Texas and Kansas would bar Chinese, Russian, Iranian, and North Korean immigrants from buying property (residential and commercial) in their states.

The Texas bill would make the “purchase of or acquisition of title to real property by certain foreign individuals or entities prohibited. Notwithstanding any other law, the following may not purchase or otherwise acquire title to real property in this state.”

The Kansas bill would similarly prohibit ownership of “Any real property [not] wholly located in Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee or Wyandotte county” by any “foreign business entity,” “foreign government,” and/or “foreign national.”

Notably, as the Kansas City Star points out, this bill would prohibit immigrant land ownership in “Lawrence and Manhattan [counties], home to two research universities that host students and faculty from around the world, and cities in southwest Kansas that for decades have been home to large immigrant and refugee populations.”

There are also two similar bills in both the Texas House and Senate that would prohibit foreign governments from buying agricultural land, though the Senate bill also included business entities and individuals with foreign governments.

Responses to the bills

One Twitter user tried to argue that journalist Sakshi Venkatraman’s tweet about the article (seen above) didn’t mention that the bill also barred people from North Korea, Iran, and Russia from buying residential property, presumably at attempt at a weird “All (Immigrant) Lives Matter” sort of gotcha. Another Twitter user pointed out that since Venkatraman was the one who wrote the article in question, she most certainly did not leave that detail out.

Theoretically, the bill seems to have included China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea as they are all considered American foreign adversaries. But this list did exclude Cuba and the Maduro regime, both of which are also considered foreign adversaries. However, many activists point out that these bills are not likely to hurt these countries or large international corporations as much as they will hurt immigrants who have willingly settled in the United States. Seriously, there are barely 1,000 North Koreans living in the US right now and you want to make life harder for them than it’s already been?!

The move is especially strange as Texas does a lot of business internationally, and this bill could fracture already fraught relations between the US and China, as has been pointed out by Texas state Representative Gene Wu.

Some other Twitter users also pointed out the hypocrisy of Governor Abbot selling a Texas Oil Refinery to some Saudi Arabian oil tycoons while working to bar immigrants from purchasing residential property.

Others accuse Republicans of trying to scapegoat Chinese nationals as the cause of the housing crisis, as opposed to say Zillow or Airbnb. A tactic that has unfortunately worked well in the past.

The defenses (or lack thereof)

The fact that many of these bills appear to be identically worded and are being proposed at the same time indicates that these are not bill proposed by ‘concerned citizens’ or even the politicians themselves, but by some third party. However, the senators behind the bills have denied any outside involvement.

When I called State Senator Kolkhorst’s office to ask questions about the bill, the aide I spoke with explained that the bill was actually adapted from TX S.B. 2116, a bill “Relating to prohibiting contracts or other agreements with certain foreign-owned companies in connection with critical infrastructure in this state” (per the Texas Tribune). It was apparently created after a Xinjiang-based real-estate developer purchase 140,000 acres for a wind farm in Del Rio.

Kolkhorst’s office explained that the bill was meant to “ensure that larger authoritative regimes can’t buy up Texas land” and curb “national security threats.”

When I asked whether or not legal residents (immigrants with green cards) would be able to buy property under this bill, Kolkhorst’s office stated: “It’s not against those who are natural born citizens or those who are fleeing tyranny.”

Which is basically a fancy way of saying no, Chinese/Russian/Iranian/North Korean immigrants would not be able to buy, sell, or own Texas property.

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller outright stated in an interview: “Until you’re a citizen, you’re a threat to our country.”

(Pretty sure citizens are also a big threat to our country, but whatever.)

I reached out to some of the senators and politicians involved with the creation of the Kansas bill but have yet to hear back. I will update the article if they provide an explanation for why some Kansas counties are excluded from the bill and others are not.

Historical Precedent

Perhaps the most troubling part of all of this is that this law is literally something from the 1800s. When white settlers in the Wild West feared Asian immigrants (mainly Chinese) supplanting them, they barred them from owning property and becoming naturalized citizens, before outright banning their immigration altogether. This enforced alienation encouraged hate against Asian Americans, eventually leading to one of the largest hate crimes in American history.

This bill doesn’t bode well for the rights of Asian immigrants or even naturalized citizens. 

Bhagat Singh Thind and A. K. Mozumdar were two of the first denaturalized American citizens. The reason their citizenship was stripped from them? Being Asian.

Even then, citizenship doesn’t always protect you from horrific abuses by the government: Executive Order 9066 interred Japanese American immigrants and citizens in concentration camps. Operation ‘Wetback’ deported 1.3 million Mexican immigrants, including US citizens.

Where do we go from here?

The unfortunate reality is that this is how it starts.

Hateful rhetoric leads into institutionalized racism leads into violence and persecution and death.

Thankfully, there are already people protesting. Hundreds of Chinese Americans have taken to the streets to protest the bill in Texas. Chinese American State Representatives are making their objections heard. But this can’t just be a battle fought by those it directly affects.

If you live in Texas/Kansas/another state that is considering one of these bills, call the offices of those who proposed the bill and make your opinion known. Organize protests, get the word out.

They’re trying to drag us back into the past. We need to dig in our heels and say, “No. We will not go back.”

(featured image: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

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Kimberly Terasaki is a Creative Writing graduate, fanfiction author, and intersectional feminist. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan. She appreciates all constructive criticism and genuine discussion.