- Attorneys representing the state of Florida filed a memorandum of law on Monday, opposing a lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 264, which bans individuals from certain countries from acquiring residential properties near critical infrastructure and military installations.
- The attorneys argue that the legislation is constitutional, asserting Florida’s right to regulate its land and emphasizing that it does not discriminate based on national origin or race.
- The state requests the denial of a motion to halt enforcement of the bill and defends it as a means to protect Florida’s land from acquisition by “China and other hostile foreign nations.”
Attorneys representing the state of Florida filed a memorandum of law on Monday in opposition to a lawsuit against Senate Bill 264, which prohibits individuals hailing from certain countries from acquiring residential properties near critical infrastructure and military installations.
The document attempts to prove the legislation’s constitutionality on the grounds that the ruling upholds Florida’s “fundamental sovereign prerogative” to regulate the land within its own borders. The attorneys add that the state possesses broad constitutional authority to regulate the acquisition of its own land and has not acted here based on national origin or race.
The state also requests that U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor denies a motion of injunction that would halt enforcement of the Senate bill.
“SB 264, the law at issue here, protects Florida’s very soil, particularly areas close to sensitive sites, from acquisition by “China and other hostile foreign nations” and their principals,” reads the memorandum.
The legislation imposes restrictions on citizens of China, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea. Chinese residents in Florida, alongside a real estate brokerage catering predominantly to Chinese clientele, jointly filed a lawsuit (Shen v. Simpson) against the state last month under the assertion that the law will place an unjustified burden of suspicion on anyone with an Asian, Russian, Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan, or Syrian-sounding name seeking to purchase property.
The challenge further argues that the measure will, in practice, institutionalize and broaden housing discrimination against Asian individuals, thereby violating both the Constitution and the Fair Housing Act. Last week, the United State Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in support of the suit.
“The United States respectfully submits this Statement of Interest … to advise the Court of the United States’ view that the provisions of SB 264 to be codified at Florida Statutes violate the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” reads the Justice Department’s amicus. “These unlawful provisions will cause serious harm to people simply because of their national origin, contravene federal civil rights laws, undermine constitutional rights, and will not advance the State’s purported goal of increasing public safety”
State leaders, including Gov. Ron DeSantis and Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson, previously vowed to “crack down” on countries like China in response to foreign businesses reportedly buying up large tracts of farmland.
A recent report by the National Association of Realtors found that Chinese real estate investors spent over $6 billion on American real estate over a 12-month period that ended in March — more than any other foreign group.
Notably, Florida accounted for 24 percent of all international real estate purchases in the US.
“Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — the Chinese Communist Party,” said DeSantis. “I’m proud to sign this legislation to stop the purchase of our farmland and land near our military bases and critical infrastructure by Chinese agents.”