A new Florida law that restricts Chinese citizens — with a few exceptions — from purchasing land in the state is unconstitutional, the Department of Justice said in a filing Tuesday.
What the state law says: Senate Bill 264, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May, restricts nationals from certain “countries of concern” — China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria — from buying land or property within 10 miles of a military installation or “critical infrastructure facility” in Florida.
An exception is made for those with a valid non-tourist visa or those who have been granted asylum, who may buy one home if that property is under two acres and not within five miles of a military installation. Another portion of the law specifically restricts Chinese political and corporate entities, but with the same area and military distance exception.
Existing owners, as well as new buyers who fall into the exception, are required to register their property with the state if they are within 10 miles of any military installation or critical infrastructure facility.
What the Justice Department says: The Justice Department wrote the filing in support of a suit that aims to block the new legislation.
According to the agency, the law violates the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It noted that its “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 department said the plaintiffs — a group of four Chinese citizens — are likely to succeed in their request for an emergency preliminary injunction.
The bigger picture: The new law is set to take effect on July 1. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the plaintiffs, believes it will “cast an undue burden of suspicion on anyone seeking to buy property whose name sounds remotely Asian, Russian, Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan, or Syrian.”