MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — A bill that would have initially prevented Chinese citizens from buying a home in Alabama underwent some major changes after a committee hearing this week.
The “Alabama Property Protection Act” changed to ban just government entities from “countries of concern” from buying land near military bases. But some Chinese American Alabamians said they still have some concerns with the new version of the bill.
Lily Moore is a realtor in Montgomery and a U.S. citizen living in Alabama for the last 25 years. She said the first version of this bill concerned her not only as someone from China but as a real estate agent who would have had to question homebuyers.
“It could be like a Caucasian that looks like an Asian. I think of my job as not a realtor anymore,” Moore said. “It’s like an investigator for FBI.”
After she and many other voiced concerns, the bill changed — no longer preventing people from China from buying land in Alabama but targeting instead government entities from countries on a federal sanctions list, including China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.
“My intent the entire time is to protect our agricultural land and our natural resources,” Senate bill sponsor David Sessions (R-Grand Bay) said. “We also wanted to protect land around our military facilities and critical infrastructure.”
Sessions said it was never meant to target a certain group.
“We have labor issues in this state. We need immigrants,” Sessions said during debate in the Senate Thursday.
Moore and Linyuan Guo-Brennan with the Central Alabama Association of Chinese Americans said they are glad to see the changes to the bill but are still concerned that the mere listing of the countries could lead to discrimination, even though the bill is now aimed at government actors.
“This is one way, or most effective way, to enforce systemic discrimination,” Guo-Brennan said. “The members of the Chinese American community have already feel that we are the political pawns of the two parties playing politics.”
The bill will next be considered by the House to either concur with the substitute bill or make changes. Tuesday will begin day 24 out of 30 meeting days for the legislative session.