July 21, 2023

Civil Rights Memo Against Rounds Amendment #813 to S.2226, the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

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National Iranian American Council Action urges the Senate to vote against Rounds Amendment #813 to S.2226, the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is scheduled for a vote this afternoon. The amendment imposes discriminatory restrictions on the purchase of agricultural property based solely on national heritage. 

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have also joined the call for the Senate to vote against the Rounds amendment.

The Department of Justice recently filed an amicus brief against similar discriminatory restrictions signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in the state of Florida, which local groups and the ACLU are challenging in court. The Department of Justice wrote that the law’s:

“unlawful provisions will cause serious harm to people simply because of their national origin, contravene federal civil rights laws, undermine constitutional rights, and will not advance the State’s purported goal of increasing public safety.” 

These same arguments apply to Rounds Amendment #813. The amendment would prohibit not just certain foreign businesses, but also citizens of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea who are lawfully in the United States from agricultural property purchases. This would result in a clear violation of the civil rights of individuals on the basis of their national heritage, leading to a ban on property purchases that have a link with agriculture.

The Rounds Amendment is narrower than some of the laws that have been offered at the state level to broadly ban Iranian and other nationals from purchasing property. But it is an opening step to further housing discrimination as has been proposed by far-right and radical governors in recent months. It is a slippery slope to future administrations, and for individuals seeking to take the law into their own hands, to discriminate against individuals of “suspect” national heritage. 

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.

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