Rounds Amendment #813 to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY24, passed the Senate on July 25th, 2023. Here’s what you need to know:
What will this amendment do?
The amendment will have narrow but decisively discriminatory impacts on visa holders from Iran, as well as Russia, China and North Korea. If the amendment is adopted and passed into law, the President would be required to bar the sale of large-scale agricultural property to nationals from these countries. These restrictions would take effect if the property in question is greater than 320 acres or valued in excess of $5,000,000. Thanks in part to NIAC’s advocacy, exemptions are in place for dual citizens and green card holders from Iran and other targeted countries.
Who else objected?
NIAC flagged this amendment vote for members of our coalition of organizations fighting alien land laws across the nation, leading to advocacy against the vote from other organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) – two major players standing for justice and civil rights.
As the ACLU warned, the amendment “targets individuals solely because of their national origin and equates any individual from a covered country with their government. It does this despite the lack of any showing that such a ban will serve the legislation’s stated goal of protecting U.S. national security interests.”
Why is NIAC concerned?
Any time Iranians are treated as an inherent national security threat and subject to onerous restrictions based on national heritage, it is cause for concern as our collective rights are eroded. Whenever bills like this are passed, we risk surrendering greater rights and accepting even more inhumane and unfair treatment if we do not push back against inherently discriminatory restrictions, in whatever their form. This is why we took a stand against the Rounds amendment.
Regrettably, the Iranian-American community has experienced firsthand how a seemingly narrow discriminatory provision can be used to expand and excuse broader discrimination. NIAC Action sounded the alarm on discriminatory visa waiver restrictions that were based on national heritage in the Obama administration, only to see those very same restrictions implemented and then used to justify the discriminatory targeting in Donald Trump’s Muslim ban which ripped families apart from one another. A similar dynamic is at risk with the Rounds amendment, where proponents of harsher and broader alien land laws will use it as a platform to impose further discriminatory policies.
Where did this vote come from?
NIAC has been monitoring legislation at both the federal and state levels that would impose discriminatory restrictions on the right to purchase property based on national heritage. One of those bills, the PASS Act, was re-introduced in the Senate and received attention around the Chinese spy balloon incident earlier this year.
NIAC consulted with legislators working to advance the legislation and shared our concerns that the original version of the bill would bar U.S.-Iranian dual citizens, green card holders and visa holders from purchasing agricultural property. Our advocacy helped ensure that the version that did receive a vote – Rounds Amendment 813 – had clear exemptions for U.S. citizens and green card holders. But we refuse to sign off on or normalize any restrictions that treat our community as an innate security risk and reduce our collective rights.
What is the path forward?
The National Defense Authorization Act has not become law, and there is still time to influence the language of the restrictions. Because the House of Representatives and Senate passed two different versions of the same bill, they will have to go to conference and negotiate a consensus version over the August recess. In this negotiation process, which will take several weeks, there should be a chance to add in additional protections to safeguard our community and limit their discriminatory impact.Back to top