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Restricting farm property ownership by ‘foreign adversary’ a step backwards for Georgia

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by Thông Phan, Georgia Recorder
March 12, 2024

With legislation that conflates national security with xenophobia, Georgia’s House Bill 1093 (folded March 12 into Senate Bill 132) and Senate Bill 420 would restrict certain individuals’ and businesses’ ability from owning, renting, or otherwise holding real property throughout Georgia. While many immigrant groups would be harmed with these bills’ passage, proponents openly target people and businesses from China. 

As someone of Vietnamese descent, I recognize that Asian people of all ethnicities are oftentimes treated indiscriminately. Though I may not be targeted by these bills, I’ve had my ethnicity and nationality questioned since I could remember. It would be callous and myopic for me to look away just because I am technically exempted from a felony charge, monetary penalties and prison time under the bills’ provisions for purchasing land as a U.S. citizen. 

What’s more, I believe that any argument that targets any group or groups based on their country of origin deserves righteous outrage, whether or not I am directly targeted. 

Both proposed pieces of legislation are similar to a Florida law which was recently enjoined by the 11th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, the same court that would hear any case made against Georgia should either SB 420 or HB 1093 pass. The court rules that only the federal government has the ability to regulate foreign investments; and targeting Chinese nationals would likely qualify as illegal discrimination under the 14th Amendment. 

If constitutional violations weren’t enough, Georgia lawmakers should consider how these legislations clash with the principles they profess to hold. Not only would these laws undermine the values of the American Dream, but also signals a dangerous pivot towards economic self-sabotage and increased racial discrimination. These bills represent a stark deviation from the principles of economic rights, freedom from government overreach, and opportunity that have allowed the United States and Georgia to advance economic prosperity. 

Consider the irony: Georgia, a place that prides itself on free market principles, now might dictate who can and cannot invest based on nationality, reminiscent of American history’s darkest chapters, where xenophobia and racism were codified into law. It’s as if the lessons of the past—McCarthyism, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the internment of Japanese Americans—are mere footnotes rather than stark warnings against the dangers of legislative overreach and racial profiling. 

This bill, under the guise of national security, also fans the flames of discrimination and fear. By targeting individuals from countries like China, Cuba and others, it exacerbates the likelihood of harassment. It is a legislative endorsement of racial profiling, creating a hostile environment for anyone who looks like they might hail from a “foreign adversary”. 

In calling for HB 1093 and SB 420 to be voted down, our intention is not to diminish the importance of national security. Instead, Georgia has the opportunity to lead by example, and to demonstrate that security and prosperity are not mutually exclusive, and reaffirm our commitment to the principles of freedom, fairness, and opportunity.

This story is republished from Georgia Recorder under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.