Earlier this month, Florida passed a law banning the sale of land to Chinese nationals, as well as nationals from six other countries — part of an apparent state-by-state effort to pass similarly restrictive bills in other states including Texas and Louisiana. Many Asian American civil rights groups have criticized the proposed laws as discriminatory and racist.
Now a group of Chinese nationals have filed a lawsuit against the State of Florida saying that the new law — which will take effect July 1 — violates their civil rights under the Fair Housing Act.
According to a press release announcing the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that the new Florida law (SB 264) will codify housing discrimination against people of Asian descent, and will expose people whose names sound Asian, Russian, Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan, or Syrian to heightened suspicion. They further argue that despite no evidence of national security concerns arising from Chinese land ownership in Florida, the law treats all Chinese people as potential threats and unfairly equates them with the actions of the Chinese government.
“Florida’s discriminatory property law is unfair, unjustified, and unconstitutional,” said Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, which is representing the plaintiffs in the case alongside the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and the DeHeng Law Offices. The legal efforts are being coordinated by the Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance (CALDA).
“Everyone in the United States is entitled to equal protection under our laws, including citizens of other countries,” added Gorski.
“Xenophobic policies and rhetoric toward China stoke racial bias,” said Bethany Li, AALDEF legal director. “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.”
According to AALDEF, although Florida is the first to enact a law prohibiting land ownership by Chinese nationals, similar bills are currently being considered in over a dozen state legislatures.