A group of Chinese citizens living and working in Florida sued the state Monday over a new law that bans Chinese nationals from purchasing property in large swaths of the state.
The law applies to properties within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of military installations and other “critical infrastructure” and also affects citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea. But Chinese citizens and those selling property to them face the harshest penalties. The prohibition also applies to agricultural land.
The American Civil Liberties Union says the law will have a substantial chilling effect on sales to Chinese and Asian people who can legally buy property. The suit says the law unfairly equates Chinese people with the actions of their government and there is no evidence of national security risk from Chinese citizens buying Florida property.
The law “will codify and expand housing discrimination against people of Asian descent in violation of the Constitution and the Fair Housing Act,” the ACLU said in a news release announcing the suit. “It will also cast an undue burden of suspicion on anyone seeking to buy property whose name sounds remotely Asian, Russian, Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan, or Syrian.”
U.S.-China ties are strained amid growing tensions over security and trade. In nearly a dozen statehouses and Congress, a decades-old worry about foreign land ownership has spiked since a Chinese spy balloon traversed the skies from Alaska to South Carolina last month.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis who is expected to launch a presidential campaign this week, signed the bill May 8. His office didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The law is set to take affect July 1. It will be a felony for Chinese people to buy property in restricted areas or for any person or real estate company to knowingly sell to restricted people.
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