CAPAC Leaders Introduce Federal Legislation to Preempt Discriminatory State Land Laws

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chair Rep. Judy Chu (CA-28) and CAPAC Housing Task Force Chair Representative Al Green (TX-09) introduced the Preemption of Real Property Discrimination Act. The legislation would preempt at the federal level state laws, like Florida’s S.B. 264, that prohibit or otherwise restrict the purchase of real property of an individual based on their country of citizenship, and tasks the Attorney General and Department of Justice with enforcement.

Many states, driven by concerns about national security or commercial influence, have laws that place restrictions on the acquisition or possession of real property by foreign governments or entities. However, a recent law passed in Florida and legislation introduced elsewhere, including Texas and South Carolina, contain flat prohibitions on the purchase or acquisition of real property by the individual citizens of foreign nations. Often, the individuals targeted by these laws are citizens of Russia, North Korea, Iran, and the People’s Republic of China.

“Buying real property—whether that’s a new house to call home or a commercial property to run a business in—is a critical step for immigrant families, students, and refugees to pursue the American Dream,” said Chair Chu. “Unfortunately, lawmakers in Florida and state legislatures across the country are seeking to prohibit this right for nationals from the People’s Republic of China, Iran, North Korea and other countries and implement a property-owning regime where Asian Americans and people of Asian descent will face undue suspicion and potential racial profiling by realtors, lenders, and others in the real estate industry. While there are specific, legitimate threats that these foreign governments and their state-owned enterprises pose to our national security, banning individuals from purchasing land or properties because of their citizenship, national origin, race, ethnicity, or immigration status is a flagrant assault on their civil rights and unconstitutional.”

Laws like Florida’s S.B. 264 are not unique to the present-day. In the 19th century, certain Americans feared that a growing population of Chinese immigrants would steal American jobs, land, and resources. This xenophobia led to the bans of Chinese individuals from land and property ownership in multiple state constitutions, and eventually to the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This federal law did not just prevent Chinese individuals from coming to the United States, but also forced Chinese Americans at home to carry papers with them at all times. Just a few decades later, during World War II, lawmakers shifted the target to Japanese immigrants, who were also subjected to exclusionary alien land laws in different states and were incarcerated due to alleged—and never proven—disloyalty.

“While these countries may be competitors or adversaries of the U.S., such provisions unnecessarily vilify persons lawfully within our country and exacerbate already heightened hostility toward ethnic minorities, in particular persons of Asian descent,” said Rep. Green. “By refusing individuals from these countries basic property rights, these bills take an unacceptable step toward xenophobia, nationalism, and discrimination. Moreover, these laws can be a slippery slope toward future and greater invidious discrimination against other groups. I would like to thank Congresswoman Judy Chu, who is Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, for co-leading on this legislation with me. Her support of this bill and her leadership in the United States Congress are invaluable.”

“We cannot repeat these shameful chapters of our past,” concluded Chair Chu. “That is why Congressman Green and I are introducing the Preemption of Real Property Discrimination Act, so that state laws that discriminate against individuals based on their citizenship and encourage racial profiling will be preempted at the federal level. We must ensure that we allow everyone here a fair shot at building a life and achieving their American dream.”

Click here for the full text of the bill.

At present, at least 28 organizations have endorsed the legislation, including: 80-20 Initiative; AAPI Equity Alliance; APA Justice Task Force; AREAA Houston; Armenian-American Action Network; Asian American Business Council in Houston; Asian American Coalition of Ohio; Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC; Asian Americans Leadership Council; Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote); Asian Texans for Justice; Chinese for Affirmative Action; Chinese Student Association at University of Florida; Chinese Students and Scholars Association at University of Florida (UFCSSA); Committee of 100; Dallas Fort Worth Chinese Alliance; Emgage Texas; Japanese American Citizens League; National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA); National Iranian American Council Action; National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC); New York Hakka Conference; North Texas APAPA; Rise AAPI; Stop AAPI Hate; The Serica Initiative; United Association Chinese Alumni (UACA) Greater Houston; Woori Juntos.