by Katelynn Richardson
Chinese citizens living in Florida sued the state Monday over a new law that prohibits people from “countries of concern” from purchasing certain property within the state.
People from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria are barred from purchasing property within 10 miles of “any military installation or critical infrastructure facility” and agricultural land under the law, SB 264, signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 8. Backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the plaintiffs allege that Florida’s law, which will take effect on July 1, expands housing discrimination and has “farreaching stigmatizing effects among people of Chinese and Asian descent,” according to the complaint.
The law contains an exception for citizens of other countries on a valid non-tourist visa or who have been granted asylum to purchase one residential property as long as it is less than two acres and not within five miles of a military installation.
Chinese buyers purchased $6.1 billion in U.S. real estate in between April 2021 and March 2022, making them the biggest foreign land buyers in the country, according to a National Association of Realtors report. GOP lawmakers have sounded the alarm about the national security threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) exercising control over domestic land.
The lawsuit connects Florida’s law to the Chinese Exclusion Act, a law passed in 1882 that prohibited Chinese laborers from immigrating to the U.S for ten years, arguing that it “recalls the wrongful animus of similar state laws from decades past.”
BREAKING: We’re suing Florida over a discriminatory property law that blocks most immigrants from China, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea from buying homes in much of the state.
The law singles out Chinese people for the harshest restrictions and penalties.
— ACLU (@ACLU) May 22, 2023
“Florida’s discriminatory property law is unfair, unjustified, and unconstitutional,” said Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, in a statement. “Everyone in the United States is entitled to equal protection under our laws, including citizens of other countries.”
A similar law was passed in Montana in May as concern about the CCP’s initiative to buy land near U.S. military installations increases. Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland has increased from $81 million in 2010 to $1.8 billion in 2020, according to Department of Agriculture data.
“When [the CCP has] interests that are opposed to ours and you see how they’ve wielded their authority — and especially with President Xi, who’s taken a much more Marxist Leninist turn since he’s been ruling China — that is not in the best interest of Florida to have the Chinese Communist Party owning farmland, owning land close to military bases,” DeSantis said in January.
DeSantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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