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Texas law would ban citizens from China, Iran, North Korea and Russia from studying at state universities

Last week, Texas Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) introduced House Bill 4736, which would bar citizens of certain countries from enrolling in Texas universities. Similar to other state statutes targeting the civil liberties of immigrants of certain nationalities, HB 4736 would punish aliens for the sins of their governments — in many cases, the governments they fled to seek a better life in the United States.

HB 4736 would prohibit public colleges from accepting citizens of China, Iran, North Korea or Russia as students. That would use to public four-year universities, technical institutes, junior colleges and medical schools. Undocumented immigrants would also be disqualified and not eligible for residency status under the Texas Education Code. There is no specific language in the bill that exempts dual citizens from the ban, meaning that a lifelong US citizen and resident could be affected if they also happened to be a citizen of a destination country.

Per the San Antonio Express News, the legislature has “little chance of advancing this session”. It may be more about sending a message than achieving a legislative goal. Nonetheless, HB 4736 reflects an increasing trend of bills being tabled in state legislatures – in Texas and elsewhere – that would restrict the civil liberties of immigrants legally residing in the United States.

In November, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham) stated introduced Senate bill 147, which would bar any “person who is a citizen of China, Iran, North Korea or Russia” from buying real estate in Texas. Originally, SB 147 would have banned home purchases and initiated a lot Issue from the immigrant communities of Texas and several states legislature. Kolkhorst has since introduced a modified version that would allow home purchases. However, even before that change, Governor Greg Abbott called he supported the bill.

Another Texas bill, SB711, would prevent any “prohibited foreign actor” — defined as a citizen of a “country identified as posing a risk to the national security of the United States” — from purchasing real estate “without written notice to the seller.” In this notification, the buyer would have to indicate its relationship with a country classified as a national security risk (“whether the buyer is a foreign national, a foreign corporation, a foreign government, or an agent, trustee, or trustee” of any such country). and give up his citizenship.

Foreign college students have been subjected to a similar scrutiny elsewhere in the US as politicians have taken to punishing certain authoritarian countries. representative Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) both floated the idea of ​​kicking Russian students out of the country after Russia invaded Ukraine last year. Back in 2020, the Trump administration withdraw the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese graduate students and researchers at American universities about their ties to universities affiliated with the Chinese military. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced a 2021 bill that would have barred Chinese nationals from obtaining American visas for graduate or postgraduate study in STEM subjects.

Laws designed to bar certain foreign nationals from American universities are often based on security concerns. But these concerns are great exaggerated. In addition, bills such as HB 4736 would punish foreigners who, in many cases, willfully build lives far from their repressive countries. Ultimately, their civil liberties should not suffer when American politicians target foreign powers.

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