Georgia House considers bill to limit land ownership for immigrants from China, Russia, Iran and other destination countries

The originally published article contains an interactive map of active military installations in Georgia. Click here to view the original story on the Atlanta Civic Circle.

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Sophia Qureshi, Editor of 285 South, and originally published in Atlanta Civic Circle on March 15. It is reprinted here with permission.

A law restricting certain immigrants from countries US discourages “foreign adversaries” from buying agricultural land or land near a military installation Georgia happened to the state senate last week and is now being examined by the House.

A similar bill, HB 452, passed the House of Representatives last week, and pro-immigration advocates are hopeful the Senate bill will do the same before the March 29 legislative session ends. They warn that part of a dangerous trend at the national level is to restrict land ownership – the basis of national ancestry – in the name of national security. At least ten other states and the US Congress have introduced similar bills since 2021.

If passed, SB 132 would prohibit both visa-holders and foreign corporations from acquiring farmland or land within 25 miles of Georgia military installations if they are from countries designated by the US Secretary of Commerce as “foreign adversaries” or designated as “Countries of Special Concern” by the US Department of State.

That covers a wide range of countries including China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Saudi ArabiaAnd Venezuela (foreign opponents), along with Burma, Eritrea, Nicaragua, Pakistan, TajikistanAnd Turkmenistan (Countries of particular concern).

Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), the author of the bill, said he was motivated by concerns about national security — China in particular. “This bill will only ban the Chinese communist government from buying our farmland in Georgia… I want to make sure that communist China doesn’t manage our farms,” ​​he told the Atlanta Civic Circle.

“I think we have to pay attention and make sure we protect our farmland,” Beach added. Co-sponsored by 14 other Republican senators, the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 35 to 20 with one abstention. Two Democrats joined the Republican majority to introduce the bill to the House of Representatives.

SB 132 was introduced in the Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee. The related House Committee is Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.

Read the latest version of the bill.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, Chinese investors and companies owned nearly 384,000 acres of US farmland in 2021. That’s just 0.9% of foreign-owned agricultural land in the US, far less than European landowners (Dutch investors own 4.4 million acres) and Canadian landowners 9 million acres. By contrast, Bill Gates owns nearly 270,000 acres of land.

“Attacking and stigmatizing immigrants”

Critics say the bill is dangerously broad. Instead of targeting specific governments, it unfairly and extensively restricts the purchase of real estate for ordinary people, while promoting the stigma of immigrants.

For example, landing within 25 miles of a military airport, base or installation covers most of the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Additionally, visa holders from destination countries who leave Georgia for more than two months a year — or the United States for more than six months — are subject to the land ban.

“It limits how long you can leave Georgia and how long you can leave the country,” he said Jennifer Lee, the political director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, who sent out an action alert against the bill to community members. “If you own or inherit property and fall into these categories, you need to get rid of your property — or fundamentally change your property.” [residency] Status.”

Azadeh ShahshahaniProject South legal and advocacy director says SB 132 discriminates based on national origin, which violates the Fair Housing Act and can leave many immigrant groups vulnerable to targeted attacks.

“The United States has a long history of targeting and stigmatizing immigrants. “Discrimination against certain groups has often been justified on the grounds of national security concerns,” Shahshahani said. “This and similar bills reflect that shameful story…” [It] will brand and target immigrants even more, leaving them vulnerable to hate crimes and abuse.”

Real Estate Agents in Atlanta Tim Wie is President of Asian Real Estate Association of America, which opposes SB 132 and similar bills in other states. Hur says he doesn’t believe it’s the responsibility of real estate agents to ask questions about immigration status in real estate transactions.

“As real estate agents, we are not the immigration police. We’re not about asking people about their immigration status,” he said. “It’s a violation of fair housing policies from left and right and we don’t want to be a part of it.”

Courts have lifted these types of land-ownership restrictions before, Lee added, but “there’s a new wave of it, with increasing anti-Chinese rhetoric and sentiment.” That’s why we’re concerned about that.”

Hur and his colleagues are closely monitoring SB 132 and similar bills at the national level. “If passed in one state, it sets a precedent for other states,” he warned.

Even if SB 132 dies in this session, Hur predicts it will return in some form next year. “Even if this bill doesn’t pass, it will have its full impact in other ways next year,” he said.

Sophia Qureshi is Editor of 285 South and Writer in Residence at Canopy Atlanta. You can read more about her work in the Atlanta Civic Circle’s Representing Georgia series.

Global Atlanta addressed the issue of foreign land ownership in Georgia at length in this story:

China’s unlikely cameo in the Georgia governor race