A federal appeals court barely overturns a contentious Florida statute that prohibits Chinese landownership

A federal appeals court has recently issued a ruling that has significantly impacted the enforcement of a controversial Florida law, aimed at barring Chinese citizens from purchasing land within the state. This law, championed by Governor Ron DeSantis, was put under scrutiny for its discriminatory nature against Chinese non-citizens, drawing widespread attention and legal challenge.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, granted a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of this law for two plaintiffs who argued that the law would force them to cancel their ongoing contracts to buy homes.

These plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which argued that the law violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection against discrimination. The court’s decision highlights a substantial likelihood of success in proving that the 2023 state law indeed engages in unlawful discrimination​​.

Judge Nancy Abudu, part of the panel and a former civil rights lawyer appointed by President Joe Biden, articulated that the law’s blanket ban against Chinese non-citizens from purchasing land within Florida blatantly violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections.

Echoing this sentiment, the South China Morning Post reported that the law, identified as SB 264, specifically targets people of Chinese descent and was seen as a measure to “counteract the malignant influence of the Chinese Communist Party,” according to DeSantis.

The law not only restricts Chinese citizens but also bars certain nationals from countries deemed hostile, including Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela, from owning property near critical U.S. infrastructure​​.

While the Florida governor’s office has expressed disagreement with the 11th Circuit’s decision to grant the preliminary injunction for the two plaintiffs, stating that the law remains in effect, the ruling has been praised by civil rights groups.

The ACLU remarked on the unconstitutionality of Florida’s discriminatory housing law, emphasizing the relief brought to their clients by the court’s decision. Moreover, this case has drawn attention from the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed a statement of interest arguing that the law contravenes federal law and constitutional rights​​.

This legal battle in Florida is set against a broader context of increasing scrutiny over foreign land ownership in the U.S., with other states considering similar measures. The case underscores significant legal and constitutional debates surrounding property rights, discrimination, and state legislation’s alignment with national civil rights standards.

The ongoing legal proceedings and the reactions from both state officials and civil rights organizations reflect the complex interplay between national security concerns, foreign relations, and the constitutional rights of individuals in the United States.

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