AUSTIN, Texas - Community members, civil rights activists and Texas lawmakers gathered in Houston on Monday to push back on Senate Bill 147.
The bill was authored by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst. If passed, according to the bill language, it would ban companies and citizens of North Korea, Iran, Russia and China from buying property in Texas.
"Despite what they say, it very clearly targets people who are here lawfully," said State Rep. Gene Wu. "It targets visa holders that we have tried to attract from around the world, it targets lawful, permanent residents or green card holders, people who have said we are making the U.S., we are making Texas our permanent home."
Republicans say it’s a matter of national security.
"It’s odd because Rep. Wu voted for a bill the very last session that prevented companies from those four countries from being able to do the same thing, and now we have realized we need to expand," said James Dickey, former Texas GOP chairman. "We've realized we need to do that because we've got a leader of the Chinese army owning 130,000 acres of Texas right next to Laughlin Air Force Base."
Those opposing the bill voiced concerns about how it would affect individual immigrants.
"SB 147 will not only take the American dream from our people, including my family but also damage Houston’s economy and culture," said Kevin Yu, a green card holder that spoke at Monday’s press conference. "It is immoral, and it is against the American spirit."
Dickey noted there is room for discussion and that bills usually go through a series of changes by the time they reach the governor’s desk.
"People who are fleeing those declared enemies, we welcome them, as we always have," said Dickey. "And if they are pursuing citizenship, and they are permanent, lawful residents, then I am quite sure that the final version of this bill will be welcoming to that."
That was echoed by Andy Hogue, communications director for the Travis County Republican Party.
"Maybe there's a 10,000-acre minimum or something," he said. "Especially with the bill last session, there are probably a lot of legal questions, a lot of questions about how federal law may intersect with it, so now we'll be able to go into a committee discussion with more information and more ammunition, for that matter, and have a more robust discussion. "
Hogue was referring to a 2021 bill that was signed into law by Governor Abbott. It prohibited contracts with companies owned by the same four countries in connection with critical infrastructure in Texas.
If SB 147 is passed by both chambers, Gov. Abbott has said he will sign it.
FOX 7 is waiting to hear back from Sen. Kolkhorst’s office.