A group of Chinese residents of Florida filed a lawsuit against the state in an attempt to overturn a law that would prohibit Chinese and other foreign nationals from owning real estate in Florida.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claims in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Tallahassee, Florida on behalf of four plaintiffs represented by the organization that the state law, which takes effect on July 1, is unconstitutional and violates a federal law prohibiting housing discrimination.
The Florida Attorney General’s office did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Property ownership in Florida is prohibited for non-U.S. citizens or green card holders who are “domiciled” in China.
Most citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea are barred from owning property within 10 miles of a military installation or “critical infrastructure facility” such as a power plant, airport, or refinery under Florida law.
Non-tourist visa holders from these countries are allowed to own a single property up to two acres in size and no closer than five miles to any critical infrastructure under a narrow exception in the law.
Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who is widely expected to run for President of the United States, signed the bill into law in early May, stating that he did so because he believed it would protect Americans from the Chinese Communist Party’s influence.
Those who illegally possess or acquire property face criminal charges, fines, and even prison time.
The lawsuit compares Florida’s law to “alien land laws” enacted by several states in the early twentieth century to prevent Chinese and Japanese from acquiring property.
The courts overturned the majority of these laws in the 1950s, but one in Florida remained in effect until 2018, when it was repealed by popular vote.
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