AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A bill filed in the Texas Senate aims to ban citizens of China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran from purchasing real estate in Texas.
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) filed Senate Bill 147 amid concerns from some top Republican officials that foreign adversaries could endanger state interests by buying Texas land. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has been one of the most vocal statewide officials in favor of the ban.
“Why would we want our enemies to own our most productive farmland?,” Commissioner Miller said. “Just use a little ‘cowboy logic.’ If we can’t buy farmland in your country, you’re not buying any here.”
Foreign entities own more land in Texas than any other state, with more than 4.7 million acres of Texas land according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That amounts to just about 3% of all the privately-held land in the state.
Commissioner Miller points to an alleged threat from a business with a Chinese chairman that tried to purchase a wind farm in Val Verde County near Laughlin Air Force Base.
“I sure don’t want them right next to one of our military installations so they can use espionage,” Miller said. “We know they steal trade secrets in the corporate world, so I only can imagine what they would do if they had the opportunity.”
That company, GH America, is owned by a former Chinese Army officer named Sun Guangxin. It tried to purchase 140,000 acres to build a wind farm, but Texas blocked them. The company denies it posed any security risk and refuted the claims repeated by Commissioner Miller.
Democrats argue the bill is not only racist but unnecessary and counter to Texas’ economic interests.
“He should at least understand that if this bill passes, it could wreck Texas farmers,” State Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) said. “China is the third largest importer of Texas goods. Texas oil, Texas wheat, Texas corn, Texas soybeans — a lot of that is going to really, really damage farmers. Because if we pass this legislation, we could lose all these trade deals.”
Texas already passed a law in 2021 that banned companies connected to the same four countries from connecting into critical infrastructure.
Gov. Abbott signed into law Sen. Donna Campbell’s Senate Bill 2116, which cites “acts of aggression towards the United States, human rights abuses, intellectual property theft, [and] previous critical infrastructure attacks” among the reasons to ban the nations’ businesses from connecting to the power grid, water and chemical plants, communications, and cyber systems.
This session’s bill goes significantly further by banning individual citizens from buying any real estate at all.
“Many of them are trying to become United States citizens and are waiting in line. And we’re telling them, ‘you’re not welcome here, you can’t buy a home, you can’t start a business,’ Rep. Wu said. “If we’re saying that Texas is no longer friendly for business, that’s a really dangerous statement.”