Webb-Haney Alien Land Law

California, 1913

California's Webb-Haney Law followed on almost forty years of Japanese immigration into the state and what many saw as a serious economic and cultural threat to its Caucasian citizens.

§ 1. All aliens eligible to citizenship under the laws of the United States may acquire, possess, enjoy, use, cultivate, occupy, transfer, transmit and inherit real property, or any interest therein, in this state, and have in whole or in part the beneficial use thereof, in the same manner and to the same extent as citizens of the United States, except as otherwise provided by the laws of this state.

§ 2. All aliens other than those mentioned in section one of this act may acquire, possess, enjoy, use, cultivate, occupy and transfer real property, or any interest therein, in this state, and have in whole or in part the beneficial use thereof, in the manner and to the extent, and for the purposes prescribed by any treaty now existing between the government of the United States and the nation or country of which such alien is a citizen or subject, and not otherwise. ...

§ 7. Any real property hereafter acquired in fee in violation of the provisions of this act by any alien mentioned in Section 2 of this act, ... shall escheat as of the date of such acquiring, to, and become and remain the property of the state of California. ...

The intent of the law was to restrict land ownership by Japanese immigrants. However, by assigning ownership of land to second generation children, born in the United States and thus citizens, or by the use of extended leases the law could be evaded. The result was Proposition 1 on the California ballot in 1920:

Proposition 1: Permits acquisition and transfer of real property by aliens eligible to citizenship, to same extent as citizens except as otherwise provided by law; permits other aliens, and companies, associations and corporations in which they hold majority interest, to acquire and transfer real property only as prescribed by treaty, but prohibiting appointment thereof as guardians of estates of minors consisting wholly or partially of real property or shares in such corporations; provides for escheats in certain cases; requires reports of property holdings to facilitate enforcement of act; prescribes penalties and repeals conflicting acts.

sections of the Heney-Webb Alien Land Law as cited in Sei Fujii v. State of California , 38 Cal.2d 718, in FindLaw.

text of California Proposition 1 ballot title as quoted in Brian J. Gaines and Wendy K. Tam Cho, On California’s 1920 Alien Land Law: The Psychology and Economics of Racial Discrimination, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Fall 2004): pp. 271–293.