Florida Court Blocks Discriminatory Housing Law Targeting Chinese Residents

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a recent decision, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction for two plaintiffs in a case challenging Florida’s law that restricts land ownership by individuals from China. While the law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May, has not been entirely blocked, the court ruled that the plaintiffs faced imminent risk of irreparable harm and therefore should be protected from the law’s enforcement. The court’s decision was seen as a victory by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has been fighting against the law.

The Florida law prohibits individuals from China who are not lawful U.S. residents from buying or owning more than a single parcel of two acres, provided it is not within five miles of a military installation. The law also restricts agricultural land ownership for individuals from China and six other countries classified as hostile, including Iran and Cuba.

The court’s ruling against the law was praised by the ACLU, stating that there is no doubt that the law is unconstitutional. The organization plans to continue fighting to prevent the law from being enforced more broadly.

The case received attention at a national level when the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in June, asserting that the law violated federal law and the U.S. Constitution. The DOJ argued that the provisions of the law would cause harm based on national origin and would undermine constitutional rights.

This is not the first court decision on the matter. In August, U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor ruled that the challengers of the law had not proven intentional discrimination against Chinese individuals by the Republican-controlled Legislature. However, the recent decision by the 11th Circuit indicates a different perspective on the issue.

The ruling serves as a warning to other states considering similar laws. Bethany Li, legal director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represents the plaintiffs, emphasized that the Florida law is a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Li urged states to focus on passing laws that protect all communities instead of reviving discriminatory practices from the past.

As of now, there has been no response from Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration regarding the court’s decision. The law has been controversial since its inception, with the Biden administration also expressing its opposition to it. With this recent development, the future of Florida’s restrictive land ownership law remains uncertain, as further legal challenges are expected.