North Texas Daily

New Texas Senate Bill is a misguided attempt to protect state security

New Texas Senate Bill is a misguided attempt to protect state security

New Texas Senate Bill is a misguided attempt to protect state security
February 09
12:00 2023

Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Twitter his intent to sign Senate Bill 147 into law in the interest of state security. The bill would ban citizens and foreign entities from China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia from purchasing land in Texas. This bill, while having the state’s best interest in mind, unfairly targets citizens and could only further complicate the relationship between the U.S. and China. The vague bill provides no exemptions for visa-holders or people on the path toward citizenship. 

Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst filed Senate Bill 147 in November 2022 to address adversarial countries acquiring land before it becomes a widespread problem. The bill specifically prohibits the purchase of property by companies that are owned by or have foreign headquarters in any of the four named countries, as well as their respective government entities. The bill also bans any citizen from these countries from purchasing land within the state.

The bill includes Iran, Russia, North Korea and China, four authoritarian-ruled countries with a tense relationship with the U. S.. Kolkhorst and Gov. Abbott’s sights mainly lie on China, as suspicions of Chinese activity and control have worsened in recent years.

This bill doesn’t take into account our complicated relationship with China. As we’re still currently in a trade war, multiple tariffs placed during former President Donald Trump’s administration still remain. Yet, as of November 2022, China is America’s third largest exporter, according to the United States Census Bureau. These types of policy decisions should be made and handled by the federal government. The creation of the bill simply highlights Gov. Abbott’s lack of faith in the federal government, as this isn’t the first time Gov. Abbott has gone against China.

The proposed bill is another attempt by Gov. Abbott and the Texas legislature to protect national security. Gov. Abbott released a directive on Dec. 7, 2022, banning the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok from all government-issued devices. Abbott wrote in the directive that the motivation behind the ban was to maintain Texas’ safety and security in the face of American conflict with the Chinese Communist Party. 

Even before the directive, the Texas legislature passed a bill in 2021 called the Lone Star Infrastructure Protection Act. The bill prohibits Texan businesses and government officials from making infrastructure deals with entities from China, Iran, North Korea or Russia. The act was a direct response to Chinese billionaire Sun Guangxin’s purchase of 140,000 acres of land for a wind farm in Del Rio, Texas.

Gov. Abbott has shown he’s willing to be tough on hostile nations, especially China. However, the ban’s targeting of citizens raises concerns. Exemptions for citizens need to exist toward legitimate good-willed foreign investment. A line should still be drawn in the sand to prevent antagonist encroachment. 

Kolkhorst claims the bill “will make crystal clear that the prohibitions do not apply to United States citizens and Lawful permanent residents.” Activists are still worried, especially Asian Americans who can’t help but make comparisons to past anti-Asian federal policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. 

These worries are not unfounded because the bill provides no clarification between legitimate foreign ownership and investment versus what could be nefarious purchases in American territory. Our land and access to infrastructure do need to be protected from dangerous entities. Still, the bill needs to make an exemption for visa-holders and companies looking to purchase property, especially visa-holders who might be on the long road toward citizenship. 

While Kolkhorst says the growing ownership of Texas land prompted the bill by foreign entities, there isn’t much evidence for this as the four countries in the bill possess little foreign-owned land in the U. S.. Chinese investors own about 383,000 acres of U.S. farmland, which is less than 1 percent of foreign-held acreage. Investors from Russia, Iran and North Korea own less than 3,000 acres collectively, according to The Texas Tribune

This situation highlights Texas’ continued lack of faith in the federal government. This bill raises an important issue that should be addressed on a federal level. Congress should discuss whether certain hostile nations, who certainly wouldn’t hesitate to strike against the U. S., should be banned from buying property and large swaths of land. 

While the bill, on the surface, doesn’t show a Chinese-American struggle, it does highlight the complex nature of our relationship with China and how citizens from many countries are caught in between.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Alfred Dozier

Alfred Dozier

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