Several Chinese citizens are suing the state of Florida over a law that prevents them from buying property.
Set to go into effect on July 1, the property law prohibits people from a “foreign country of concern” from buying commercial or residential property in the state. The countries listed as "concerns" are China, Cuba, Iran, Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela.
Citizens are barred from owning property within ten miles of military facilities, threatening those who already live there with hefty fines if they do not register with the government. The lawsuit notes that there are twelve military bases across Florida, many of which are in proximity to the state's major cities.
Filed Tuesday, the suit from Chinese citizens and the ACLU argues that the law "imposes especially draconian restrictions on people from China," and “stigmatizes them and their communities, and casts a cloud of suspicion over anyone of Chinese descent who seeks to buy property in Florida.”
"This law is unconstitutional," it reads. "It violates the equal protection and due process guarantees under the U.S. Constitution; it intrudes on the federal government’s power to superintend foreign affairs, foreign investment, and national security; and it recalls the wrongful animus of similar state laws from decades past — laws that were eventually struck down by courts or repealed by legislatures."
The lawsuit noted policies from past centuries such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Alien Land Law, which prevented those of Asian decent from immigrating to the United States and prevented them from owning property. Many were struck down in the 1950s after a Supreme Court ruling, except for Florida's, which remained in effect until 2018 when it was repealed in via a ballot measure vote.
A similar law to Florida's was proposed in Texas in February, sparking outrage from Chinese communities in the state. The bill recently died in the state legislature, as lawmakers failed to vote on it before the session's end.
In a statement, the ACLU said that Florida's law “will also cast an undue burden of suspicion on anyone seeking to buy property whose name sounds remotely Asian, Russian, Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan, or Syrian” and that “there is no evidence of national security harm resulting from real estate ownership by Chinese people in Florida."
“Asian immigrants are part of Florida’s fabric. For hundreds of years, they have contributed to our communities and have made this state their home,” added Daniel Tilley, legal director for the ACLU of Florida. “The discriminatory policies pushed by the DeSantis administration will not go unchecked. The Constitution protects us all.”