Austin (Nexstar) — A bill filed in the Texas Senate seeks to ban citizens from China, Russia, North Korea and Iran from buying property in Texas.
Senator Lois Colkhorst (R-Brenham) has filed Senate Bill 147 amid fears by some senior Republican officials that foreign adversaries could jeopardize state interests by buying land in Texas. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller was one of the state’s most vocal officials in support of the ban.
“Why do we want our enemies to own our most productive farmland?” Commissioner Miller said. “Just use a bit of ‘cowboy logic’. If we can’t buy farmland in your country, you don’t buy anything here.”
According to the USDA, foreign companies own more land in Texas than any other state, with over 4.7 million acres of Texas land. This is only about 3% of all private land in the state.
Commissioner Miller points out a perceived threat from a business with a Chinese chairman who was trying to acquire a wind farm in Val Verde County near Laughlin Air Force Base.
“I definitely don’t want them near one of our military installations to use them for espionage,” Miller said. “We know they steal trade secrets in the corporate world, so I can only imagine what they would do if they had the opportunity.”
This company, GH America, is owned by a former Chinese army officer named Sun Guangxin. He tried to buy 140,000 acres to build a wind farm, but Texas blocked it. The company denied that this posed any security risk and denied the allegations repeated by Commissioner Miller.
Democrats argue that the bill is not only racist, but also unnecessary and contrary to the economic interests of Texas.
“He should at least understand that if this bill passes, it could bankrupt Texas farmers,” said Rep. Jin Woo (D-Houston). “China is the third largest importer of Texas goods. Texas oil, Texas wheat, Texas corn, Texas soybeans – many of these will cause serious damage to farmers. Because if we pass this law, we could lose all these trade deals.”
In 2021, Texas already passed a law barring companies associated with the same four countries from connecting to critical infrastructure.
Governor Abbott signed Senate Bill 2116 by Senator Donna Campbell, which refers to “acts of aggression against the United States, violations of human rights, theft of intellectual property, [and] previous attacks on critical infrastructure” among the reasons for the ban on the country’s enterprises to connect to the electricity grid, water and chemical plants, communications and cyber systems.
This session’s bill goes much further, prohibiting individual citizens from buying property at all.
“Many of them are trying to become US citizens and are waiting in line. And we tell them, “You’re not welcome here, you can’t buy a house, you can’t start a business,” Rep. Wu said. “If we’re saying that Texas is no longer business friendly, that’s a really dangerous statement.”