San Francisco labor opposes racist land ownership bill in Texas

San Francisco

Recalling California’s shameful history of prohibiting Chinese and Japanese residents from owning land in the state, the San Francisco Labor Council voted March 13 to condemn a similarly racist bill currently before the Texas state Senate. The vote by SFLC delegates was unanimous.

Texas Senate Bill 147, if enacted, “would ban citizens of China, Russia, North Korea and Iran from buying property or real estate in Texas,” the SFLC resolution said. At least 11 other states are considering similarly racist and xenophobic bills — “based on the four countries being designated as enemies of the United States.”

Two retired San Francisco Superior Court judges, Lillian Sing and Julie Tang, recently co-authored an article about SB 147 in the San Francisco Chronicle, saying the bill is “eerily similar to racist laws of the past. In 1913, California passed the Alien Land Law prohibiting Asian immigrants from owning land. In 1920, immigrants not eligible for citizenship could not acquire agricultural lands.

“These laws were directed at Japanese and Chinese immigrants. Oregon’s Constitution stated no ‘Chinaman’ could own property in the state — but ‘white foreigners’ could enjoy the same ownership rights as native citizens. Fortunately, these discriminatory laws were eventually struck down by the Supreme Court. SB147 ignores that history to send the chilling message that questions the loyalty of Asian Americans.

“As former judges, we believe SB147 and similar bills in other states violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . . . They are a shameful throwback to the ugliest, most hateful periods of our past — times that we barely survived. The nation just endured a 339% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes last year. These new laws will target Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders anew. The bills are xenophobic, unconstitutional and should not be passed.” 

Dave Welsh is a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council.

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