China citizens challenge Florida law restricting foreign nationals from purchasing property News
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China citizens challenge Florida law restricting foreign nationals from purchasing property

A group of Chinese citizens who live in Florida, along with a real estate firm that serves clients of Chinese descent, filed a lawsuit Monday challenging a Florida law that imposes restrictions on some foreign nationals and businesses from buying property in the state. Their lawsuit asserts that the law, SB 264, forces them to cancel property purchases, register properties with the state and face the loss of business.

“The law stigmatizes them and their communities,” the lawsuit says. “And casts a cloud of suspicion over anyone of Chinese descent who seeks to buy property in Florida.”

The lawsuit invokes both the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination, and theFourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects certain liberty rights and guarantees equal protection under the law. It says that the Florida law places an “undue burden of suspicion” of people from the target nations and amounts to housing discrimination.

“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 press release about the lawsuit. “Everyone in the United States is entitled to equal protection under our laws, including citizens of other countries. If SB 264 goes into effect, it will profoundly harm our clients and countless other immigrants in Florida.”

The group of citizens and their advocates connected SB 264 to the US’s history of discriminatory laws against people of Asian descent, including laws that prohibited people from owning homes in the name of national security. Bethany Li of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund said:

We have repeatedly seen how policies in the name of national security have harmed Asian Americans — from immigration restrictions, to the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans in camps, and post-9/11 surveillance. Failing to call out the discriminatory impacts means our community will continue to experience racism, violence, and the erosion of rights.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB264 into law in early May. It restricts the ability of foreign nationals, businesses and political parties from certain countries from buying property or investing in Florida. In a statement released at the time of his signing, DeSantis said that the state was “taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — the Chinese Communist Party.” China was the main focus of the law, but it also imposes restrictions on citizens from Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia and North Korea.

The lawsuit comes as a number of civil rights groups have raised alarms about the impact of Florida legislation targeting minority communities. Both the NAACP and LGBT-rights group Equality Florida have issued travel advisories for the state.