DOJ Argues Florida Law Restricting Chinese Land Ownership Violates Constitution

Samantha Flom
By Samantha Flom
June 30, 2023US News

The Department of Justice on Tuesday challenged a Florida law that bars Chinese citizens from owning land, asserting it violates federal housing law and the 14th Amendment.

The department filed a statement of interest (pdf) in a case challenging the provision, arguing the Florida law restricting Chinese land ownership by U.S. military installations and major infrastructure is unconstitutional.

The DOJ argues that the law, SB 264 (pdf), which was signed into law last month by GOP presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

“These 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,” the DOJ said in its challenge of the law.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, disability, and national origin.

Details of the Law

SB 264 is set to take effect on July 1, and it places two sets of restrictions on land ownership in Florida, according to the filing.

The state law imposes new restrictions on individuals and organizations originating from “foreign countries of concern,” which are defined as China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria.

It prohibits “foreign principals,” defined as individuals with a “domicile” in the People’s Republic of China who are neither U.S. citizens nor lawful permanent residents, from owning or acquiring agricultural land or real property within 10 miles of any “military installation” or “critical infrastructure facility” in Florida.

Individuals with a valid non-tourist visa or who have been granted asylum may purchase a single residential property if it is less than two acres in size and is located more than five miles from a military installation.

Additionally, the law prohibits the “purchase or acquisition of real property by the People’s Republic of China,” which includes Chinese political and corporate entities.

Property buyers or sellers who violate the restriction could face up to 60 days imprisonment and a $500 fine.

Under the law, Chinese citizens and those selling property to them face the harshest restrictions and penalties, with the second set prohibiting individuals who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents and are “domiciled in the People’s Republic of China,” from owning or purchasing any property in the state of Florida.

Property sellers who knowingly violate the second set could face up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Chinese nationals who violate the law could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

“Restricting China and other hostile foreign nations from controlling Florida’s agricultural land and lands near critical infrastructure facilities protects our state, provides long-term stability, and preserves our economic freedom,” Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson stated last month, according to the filing.

Suit Against Florida

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently representing four Chinese citizens who live in Florida as well as a Florida brokerage firm who are suing the state over claims the legislation will “cast an undue burden of suspicion on anyone seeking to buy property whose name sounds remotely Asian, Russian, Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan, or Syrian.”

Plaintiffs Yifan Shen, Zhiming Xu, Xinxi Wang, Yongxin Liu, and Multi-Choice Realty, LLC filed a preliminary injunction petition on May 22. The filing by the DOJ seeks to support this motion. U.S. District Judge Allen C. Winsor has scheduled a hearing on the matter for July 18.

“Florida’s dangerous new law recalls similar efforts over the past century to weaponize false claims of ‘national security’ against Asian immigrants and other marginalized communities,” the ACLU said in a summary of its case.

“In the early 1900s, states across the country used similar justifications to pass ‘alien land laws’ designed to prohibit Chinese and Japanese immigrants from becoming landowners.”

The suit notes that there are more than 20 military installations in Florida, many of which are within five miles of city centers like Orlando, Miami, and Tallahassee.

Critics of the law assert that in addition to being potentially discriminatory, it could cause Floridians to become hesitant to sell to certain minorities out of fear of violating the law.

The Florida governor’s office did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.

From The Epoch Times

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