On Thursday, a US District Judge named Allen Winsor, based in Tallahassee, Florida, turned down appeals to stop a disputed law. This law prevents people from certain countries, including China, from owning property in the state. The judge insisted that the law, which is based on issues of citizenship, does not appear to break the US Constitution or any laws that protect against discrimination in housing. Here are the important details:
- Judge Winsor was selected by former Republican President Donald Trump.
- This law primarily impacts individuals residing in places such as China who aren’t American citizens or lack green cards.
- Folks from Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea are also subject to restrictions, particularly around significant military and infrastructure sites.
- Nonetheless, there’s a loophole for people from these nations who possess non-tourist visas – they’re allowed to possess property as long as it’s not less than five miles (8 km) away from crucial infrastructure.
American Civil Liberties Union Challenges the Law
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), representing four Chinese individuals, began a legal battle in May to oppose this law. They argue that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s commitment to equality and due process. It also conflicts with the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), which prohibits discrimination in housing based on race or nationality.
ACLU attorney Ashley Gorski expressed dissatisfaction with this situation and announced plans to contest the decision. The Biden administration has also expressed concern, submitting a document suggesting that the Florida legislation probably infringes on the FHA. Judge Winsor, however, pointed out that the law could affect people not originally from China, implying no direct discrimination based on protected characteristics.
State Officials & Broader Implications
Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who is in the presidential race, had earlier emphasized the law’s role in protecting Americans from potential Chinese Communist Party influences. He described the Party as “the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat.” On the heels of this ruling, DeSantis praised the decision on social media, highlighting Florida’s resilience against perceived CCP influence.
- Other states like Texas and Louisiana have also deliberated on similar legislation this year.
- Florida’s new law identifies several nations as “countries of concern” including China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.
- The law also incorporates misdemeanor criminal penalties for property sellers who consciously defy the regulations.
Derek Shaffer, a partner at Quinn Emanuel, stated that Chinese individuals deserve equal treatment in Florida’s housing market, resonating with the sentiments of many opposing the law.
Impact on Immigrant Communities
The law’s opponents, some of whom termed it “racist”, intend to challenge Judge Winsor’s recent ruling. Jian Song, an owner of Multi-Choice Realty LLC and one of the plaintiffs, shared his distress over the legislation, reflecting the concerns of numerous immigrants attempting to establish themselves in Florida. Furthermore, Asian Americans and Chinese citizens residing in Florida had warned against potential discrimination and harassment due to the law.
Despite the controversy, the legislation received significant bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. It not only focuses on properties near military and other critical installations but also extends its prohibition to agricultural lands, indicating a broader scope than initially perceived.
As Florida’s law remains intact for now, the debate over its implications and constitutionality persists. The legislation’s supporters argue its necessity for security concerns, while opponents stress its discriminatory nature. With potential appeals on the horizon, the final resolution may still be pending.