Over 100 Texans testified before the Texas Senate on Thursday against Bill 147, which originally sought to prevent Chinese, North Korean, Iranian and Russian citizens from buying property in the state.
State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, who filed the proposed legislation in November 2022, made several revisions to the bill prior to the hearing so that it would only apply to foreign governments and not individuals. It also now specifies that those who are already U.S. citizens or have dual citizenship are exempt from the bill.
Kolkhorst said she made changes to the bill in a bid to “make it crystal clear that dual citizens and legal permanent residents are able to purchase property. In fact, anyone fleeing these authoritarian regimes will be able to purchase a home.”
The bill’s author previously stated that her proposal was in response to attempts by Chinese nationals with connections to the communist regime to purchase land in the state. She claimed it is necessary for national security and would not impact legal residents or green card holders.
Her revisions were made after the bill was heavily criticized by the Asian American community in the state, with several rights groups conducting protests in different cities to block its passing.
On Thursday, Kolkhorst testified before the Committee on State Affairs, stating that she “rejects any notion that SB 147 is a racist bill.”
“I come before you as a liberty-lover and someone that wants to protect our food security, our mineral security, and the future of our great state,” Kolkhorst said.
The State Affairs Committee also heard testimonies from Asian American Texas residents who denounced the bill as discriminatory as it targets specific communities. Those who testified, many of whom have been living and working in Texas for years on employment visas, argued that the bill violates the property rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.
While some thanked Kolkhorst for her changes to the bill, others urged her to make further revisions as those on employment visas would still be barred from buying a home under the modified bill.
The hearing, which lasted for hours, also saw many lamenting the direct effects the legislation would have on themselves and their families.
Some speakers expressed fears that the bill would fuel anti-Asian hate incidents and crimes, which have plagued the community since the height of the coronavirus pandemic. For them, it is a reminder of the country’s dark periods of Asian American discrimination.
According to some speakers, it took them years to obtain green cards or become citizens because of extensive backlogs and long wait times.
Wei Li, a college professor who has lived in the U.S. for 17 years and is eligible to apply for citizenship later this month, spoke emotionally about how the bill is a slight to himself and his children.
“It scoffs at me: ‘Sorry, you’re not Texan. People like you would not even deserve to own a home,'” he said through tears, adding that he is raising “four young Texans, proudly.”