In a legal case known as Shen v. Simpson, the Biden administration has shared its stance in federal court against a new Florida law prohibiting Chinese citizens from owning land within the State. Under President Joe Biden, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has submitted a “statement of interest” regarding the issue to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
According to the filing by the Department of Justice, the law that was supposed to take effect this weekend violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and the Fair Housing Act. This means that real estate transactions cannot discriminate based on national origin under the Fair Housing Act.
In its submission, the DOJ argues that the provisions of the law contravene federal civil rights laws, infringe upon constitutional rights, and fail to advance the State’s stated goal of enhancing public safety. The DOJ emphasizes that these unlawful provisions will significantly harm individuals solely based on their national origin. The plaintiffs, a group of Chinese nationals residing in Florida, are deemed likely to succeed in their lawsuit, according to the DOJ.
Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican presidential candidate, responded to the DOJ’s submission by tweeting, “While the Biden-Garland DOJ sides with Communist China, I side with the American people.”
The governor referenced both President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland in his statement, claiming that as governor, he prohibited CCP-connected entities from purchasing land in Florida and would take similar action as president if elected.
In May, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit claiming that the law would force them to give up buying properties and shut down their businesses. Several organizations, such as the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union, are advocating for their rights.
According to Ashley Gorski, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, “Florida’s discriminatory property law is unfair, unjustified, and unconstitutional.”
Gorski further argues that the law in the United States guarantees equal protection to everyone, including foreign nationals. If SB 264 becomes law, it will severely harm our clients and a significant number of other immigrants in Florida, she contends.
According to the text of the law, Chinese nationals who are “domiciled” in Florida, as well as other foreign nationals from designated “countries of concern,” are prohibited from purchasing land within 10 miles of military installations or critical infrastructure facilities in the State.
The “countries of concern” list includes China, Iran, Russia, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Cuba. However, the law does not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who are citizens of these nations.
In January, DeSantis stated that it is “not in the best interests of Florida” for the Chinese Communist Party to own farmland and land in proximity to military bases, as reported by The Hill.