February 21, 2024

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A U.S. appeals court has temporarily halted Florida’s enforcement of a law preventing Chinese citizens from owning property in the state, ruling in favor of two Chinese nationals who were in the process of buying property when the law was enacted.

The court’s decision: On Thursday, the court panel, from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, stated that the plaintiffs demonstrated a substantial likelihood of prevailing in their argument that the Florida law, known as SB 264, violates a federal law related to real estate purchases by foreign nationals. The injunction prevents the law’s enforcement against the two plaintiffs while the court decides on the appeal’s merits.

“As a Chinese citizen who was in the process of buying a home when this law went into effect, I’ve been extremely worried ever since,” one of the plaintiffs stated in a press release by the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the Chinese immigrants. “Today’s decision is a relief for me and my family, and we hope that the courts will permanently halt enforcement of this law.”

About SB246: The law, which chinese-citizens-land” data-ylk=”slk:was signed;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas” class=”link “>was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May and took effect on July 1 last year, prohibits Chinese citizens from “purchasing or acquiring real property” or from having more than a small “indirect interest in such real property” in Florida in an effort to protect Americans from the influence of the Chinese Communist Party. It limits Chinese citizens with non-tourist visas to acquiring less than two acres of land that is at least five miles away from any military installations. It also restricts foreign citizens from Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria to purchase land within 10 miles of military bases.

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A relief: China’s foreign ministry previously criticized such laws, arguing that they violate market economy rules and international trade regulations. The law was also criticized as being reminiscent of historical anti-Asian legislation, drawing attention to potential Equal Protection Clause violations. Similar laws have been historically used to restrict land ownership by Asian immigrants.

“This Florida law is just like the alien land laws of more than a hundred years ago banning Asian Americans from owning land,” said Clay Zhu, attorney and managing partner at DeHeng Law Offices PC. “It is unfair, unconstitutional, and un-American. We are encouraged by today’s decision from the court.”

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