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Injunction sought against Florida law banning foreign nationals from buying land

Civil rights groups argue it is discriminatory and overstep of state’s authority
Posted at 5:59 PM, Jul 18, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal judge is now considering whether to block a new Florida law banning some foreign nationals from buying land in the state, including those from China.

Civil rights groups are bringing the challenge, arguing the law is discriminatory and an overstep of the state’s authority.

Protesters chanted outside the Northern District Courthouse in Tallahassee on Tuesday afternoon, fearful, they say, of a xenophobic new state law.

It was standing room only as a large number of people from the Asian-American community turned out in opposition of what this policy might do.

“It’s going to just create more Asian hate," Baoliang Pan, of Winter Garden, said. "The government is just sending out a signal to all of the people in the state of Florida— hey, we don’t like those people from China.”

The American Civil Liberties UnionAmerican Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of several Chinese nationals and a realty group, inside the courthouse — are seeking a preliminary injunction to block the policy.

The law took effect in July and prohibits someone “domiciled” in China, who is not a US citizen or permanent resident, from buying Florida farm or real property.

That’s not all.

Noncitizens from a “country of concern,” which includes Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia and North Korea, can’t buy Florida real estate near critical infrastructure or military bases.

Republicans, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, say they are trying to protect against foreign influence and sabotage.

“Today, we’re really recognizing the threat and we’re taking action and really doing measures that no other state has done at this level," DeSantis said on May 8.

Plaintiffs have alleged the law violates discrimination protections in the U.S. 14th Amendment, the Fair Housing Act, and say the state is overstepping its authority.

They’re asking Circuit Judge Allen Winsor — a president Donald Trump appointee — to grant a broad hold on enforcement of the policy and determine it unconstitutional.

“The Asian American community is angry," Bethani Li, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund legal director, said. "We have repeatedly seen these types of racist laws harm our communities.”

Attorneys for Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson and others named in the suit declined comment.

But in the courtroom they argued the policy was just and Florida was within its rights.

That, however, will now be up to the judge who has said it will take some time to review the case and issue a ruling.

Winsor said he wants to move as quickly as possible but warned a ruling on this matter wouldn’t be “imminent.”