Louisiana State House Passes Ban on Foreign Land Purchase, Texas State Bill Unlikely to Continue

Representative Gene Wu speaks on the State House floor on May 15, 2023.

Posted By Jenn

Over the past week, we’ve been covering the efforts in the Texas and Louisiana state legislatures to pass restrictive bills banning the purchase or rental of land to Chinese nationals, and citizens of five other “foreign adversary” countries. Those bills have been widely criticized as discriminatory, and have triggered grassroots protests from Chinese Americans in both states. A similar bill was recently signed into law in Florida and is being challenged in court.

Despite the backlash, a heavily-amended version of Louisiana’s House Bill 537 was passed yesterday in a 78 – 22 vote. It will now move to the State Senate where a similar proposal – SB 91 – is scheduled for a floor vote today.

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Louisiana’s Chinese Americans Concerned About State Laws That Would Ban Foreign Nationals From Owning or Renting Property

Back steps of the Louisiana State Capitol. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Posted By Jenn

In Louisiana, state lawmakers are debating bills in the State House and State Senate – HB 537 and SB 91that would ban some foreign nationals from China, Iran, Iraq, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea from owning or renting property in the state. Here I interview a member of the Chinese American community in Louisiana – who has chosen to remain anonymous – on what he feels are the potential impact of those bills.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Thank you for taking the time to speak to me. In Louisiana, bills were introduced in the State House (HB 537) and State Senate (SB 91) that would prevent foreign nationals from China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela to own or lease property in the state. This would include anyone in the United States on a temporary work or student visa. Similar bills have been introduced or passed in Florida and Texas. How do you think such a ban in Louisiana would affect you, your friends and family, and/or your work?

Unfortunately, they will directly impact my family. For example, SB 91, in its current wording, will ban any leasing and purchasing of properties within a 50-mile radius of any military installations, and is retroactive. (Editors’ Note: Both HB 537 and SB 91 also make foreign-owned property subject to civil forfeiture.)

We currently own a house in Baton Rouge, where the entire city is within a 50-mile radius of the Armed Forces Reserve Center. This means the Attorney General can legally take our house away , and my family will not be allowed to purchase or lease a new home, whether in Baton Rouge or anywhere in Louisiana (almost the entire land of Louisiana is within a 50-mile radius of some form of military installation). I am afraid we will need to either sleep on the street or find a new job in another state.

My family also cares for international students and scholars from China, most of whom are living in rental properties temporarily. SB 91 also allows the Attorney General to legally take the properties away from them, and prevent them from renting a new place. HB 537 also has the same effect. Though the author claims the bill has excluded individuals, immigrant lawyers pointed out that is false due to the inaccurate wording. Most international students and scholars from China are still subject to HB 537.

To summarize, these two bills are devastating. They would be nothing short of an eviction order to my family and most of our international student and scholar friends. 

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Louisiana State Bills Would Ban Some Foreign Nationals From Buying or Renting Property

Louisiana State Capitol Building (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Posted By Jenn

Earlier this month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that prevents Chinese foreign nationals – as well as nationals from Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea – from buying or owning land within a 10-mile radius of a military installation. During debate on the bill (SB 624), it was widely criticized as racist by Chinese American civil rights groups. Despite this opposition, the bill passed by wide margins in both the Florida Senate and House.

In a statement released after Governor DeSantis approved the new Florida state law, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus chair Representative Judy Chu (CA-28) called it “the latest state-level effort to restrict the property ownership of Chinese home seekers, who are aspiring small business owners, students, and families seeking to build better lives for themselves here in America.”

Florida is not alone in limiting foreign national ownership of land. Several states already restrict foreign nationals from owning agricultural farmland. But Florida’s bill is unique because it limits ownership of any type of land – not just farmland – within the restricted area. SB 624’s passage in Florida may embolden similar efforts in other states. Indeed, Texas is currently considering a bill (SB 147) similar to the one recently signed in Florida.

In Louisiana, state lawmakers have gone a step further.

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