Democrats pushing back on proposed Texas land ownership legislation

Growing concerns among some lawmakers regarding the ownership of land and resources by foreign nations hostile to the United States have prompted a variety of bills filed at both the state and national level to address the issue.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) is one of those lawmakers, who has filed Senate Bill (SB) 147, which she says aims to protect Texas land against ownership by foreign governments, specifically China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia.

As filed, SB 147 prohibits the future sale of real estate to the aforementioned governments, companies controlled by them, or citizens of those respective countries.

“The growing ownership of Texas land by some foreign entities is highly disturbing and raises red flags for many Texans,” Kolkhorst said in a statement. “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.”

Kolkhorst gave several examples of foreign land ownership her bill seeks to prevent, including the recent purchase of 130,000 acres near Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio by a former member of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

The bill has drawn strong pushback from Democrats, who point to the provision prohibiting ownership of land by foreign citizens and say the bill would prevent immigrants seeking citizenship from participating in the “American experience” and deny them the right to own land.

A press conference held Wednesday by Democratic lawmakers decried the legislation, organized by Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston). It included Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood), who thanked Wu on Twitter for organizing the conference, and Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D-Cypress), who wrote concerning the bill, “We must all work together to fight bigotry, hate, and discrimination!”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has signaled support for the legislation, claimed those objections are a “mischaracterization of what the bill seeks to do” in a statement to reporters.

Abbott added that no one knows what the final language of the bill will look like and restated the legislation’s intended goal of preventing foreign nations that are hostile to the United States from owning land. “It does not impact at all people who are citizens or who plan to become citizens,” he said.

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