Chinese Texans are outraged as activist Ling Luo says her Texas Chinese community has gone from afraid to outraged and wants their opinions heard. They’ve been protesting in hundreds around the state, urging lawmakers to oppose a bill they feel could imperil their futures.
Asian Americans and others in Texas were shocked by a late December Texas Senate bill that has been gaining momentum. SB 147 would ban Chinese citizens from buying Texas property, including homes.
Luo said it’s a shocking premise, incongruous with everything she thought America was when she moved here in 1997, but by the time she heard about the bill, the biggest player in Texas politics had supported it.
Last month, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted, “I will sign it. “This follows a law I signed banning those countries from threatening our infrastructure,” he added. You can see the tweet below.
I signed a law that prevents business entities from 'hostile nations' from accessing the Texas grid and other critical infrastructure.
The law listed China, Russia, Iran and North Korea as hostile nations.
So, transactions like this are prohibited. https://t.co/mfj5B8KhNV
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 12, 2021
Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst’s bill covers North Korea, Iran, and Russia. Legal permanent residents, visa holders, and dual citizens are not exempt.
Kolkhorst did not comment. She introduced the bill to protect Texans in a news release. “The growing ownership of Texas land by some foreign entities is highly disturbing and raises red flags for many Texans,” Kolkhorst said in the release. “By comparison, as an American go try to buy land near a Chinese military base and see how it works out for you. It would never happen there and it shouldn’t happen here. Passing this law delivers some basic safeguards to ensure Texans remain in control of Texas land.” In 2021, Texas had 235,000 Chinese. Luo worries that the number would drop if the law passes as is.
Asian people allege the law targets and scapegoat their communities under national security. They’re angry and wondering if Texas welcomes them. Luo feels lucky as a Chinese immigrant who gained a U.S. citizen years ago. She remembers the promise the U.S. offered her and thinks immigrants around her are losing that dream.
“I received my green card” is their worry. No more property purchases. “How will I live here?” she said. “Owning a home is better than renting. It’s the world’s dream.” She created the Asian American Leadership Council on WeChat to fight the bill. Within days, hundreds, including Texas leaders, supported her.
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Luo and the Asian American Leadership Council have encouraged concerned residents to write and call their legislators, even providing templates. She’s even preparing people to testify before the Texas Legislature.
“There are people who are asking if they need to get out of the state, like right now,” said Democratic state Rep. Gene Wu, who represents a mainly Chinese district. “I have never seen the Chinese community this active and motivated in my adult life. The community is agitated. Enraged.
On Jan. 29, hundreds protested Bill 147 in Austin and Dallas. Last week, Wu, Luo, and 1,000 other Texans rallied in Houston. “Stop Asian Hate” and “Stop Chinese Exclusion” read some signs. Wu remembers when his visa-holding parents bought their first home.
“My question is what does my childhood home, this dinky little house that my parents bought for $60,000, has to do with national security? I’ve not gotten an answer” he said.
One Expert Calls The Bill Unconstitutional
Mark Jones, a Rice University political science professor in Houston, said certain Texas Legislative laws are symbolic. He suggests SB 147. He claimed the bill’s current form might hurt the state’s economy.
“They didn’t take into account that you have a nontrivial number of legal permanent residents and citizens who also have passports from these countries,” he said. “They also didn’t fully take into account the impact that it might have on residential housing or commercial properties.”
Jones believes the bill will fail. He said obtaining rights from individuals is different from taking them from foreign countries. He called that article unconstitutional. That would be national origin-based discrimination.
Despite the criticism, Kolkhorst assured local media she would amend the law. “In the committee substitute, the bill will make crystal clear that the prohibitions do not apply to United States citizens and lawful permanent residents,” she said.
Kolkhorst didn’t address visa holders, and the bill hasn’t changed. Chinese locals doubt they ever will. Wu stated, “The community fully expects them to do this.” “Because I think there’s an expectation that they’re going to do whatever terrible thing they’re going to do. … This is very, very popular on the Republican side.”
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Luo said the bill’s introduction has shaken Texas Asian Americans’ faith. She and Wu have been shocked by this by Chinese citizens of all political stripes. She wants her town to be protected, not to fight a political party.
She claimed the bill targets China but hurts Texans. Luo said legislators use these laws to toy with the Chinese community and appeal to their voter base. “China won’t get hurt at all, and the Chinese investors won’t get hurt at all. It’s the people here, the non-U.S. citizens, Chinese immigrants, who are the ones getting hurt and totally destroyed.”
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