U.S. Department of Justice backs lawsuit against Chinese property ownership bill

by | Jun 28, 2023



  • The United States Department of Justice has filed a Statement of Interest supporting a lawsuit against Senate Bill 264 in Florida, which prohibits individuals from certain countries from buying residential properties near critical infrastructure and military installations.
  • The federal attorneys argue that the provisions in the legislation violate the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
  • The lawsuit, filed by Chinese residents in Florida and a real estate brokerage catering to Chinese clients, claims that the law will lead to housing discrimination against Asian individuals and is unconstitutional.

The United State Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest on Tuesday in support of a lawsuit against Senate Bill 264, which prohibits individuals hailing from certain countries from acquiring residential properties near critical infrastructure and military installations.

In the statement, federal attorneys contend that provisions within the legislation violate the Fair Housing Act, as well as the Equal Protection Clause within the Constitution.

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 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”

Chinese residents in Florida, alongside a real estate brokerage catering predominantly to Chinese clientele, jointly filed a lawsuit (Shen v. Simpson) against the state of Florida last month over a recently-enacted law that prohibits individuals hailing from certain countries from acquiring residential properties near critical infrastructure and military installations.

It further asserts 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 legislation imposes restrictions on citizens of China, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea. The lawsuit 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.

“Florida’s discriminatory property law is unfair, unjustified, and unconstitutional,” said Ashley Gorski, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, who is representing the plaintiffs in the suit. “Everyone in the United States is entitled to equal protection under our laws, including citizens of other countries. If SB 264 goes into effect, it will profoundly harm our clients and countless other immigrants in Florida.”

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