The Biden Administration has argued that a new Florida law that prohibits Chinese citizens from owning land in the state is unconstitutional, according to filings in federal court on Tuesday.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a “statement of interest” in the case of Shen v. Simpson, a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida that seeks to invalidate the new state law, which takes effect on July 1. In its filing, the DOJ wrote that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment as well as the Fair Housing Act, which bars discrimination based on national origin in the sale of property.
“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,” the DOJ wrote in its filing.
The DOJ added that the plaintiffs, a group of Chinese citizens who reside in Florida, “are likely to succeed on the merits” of their lawsuit. The plaintiffs operate brokerage businesses focused “principally [on] Chinese and Chinese American clients,” according to the complaint.
“While the Biden-Garland DOJ sides with Communist China, I side with the American people,” Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted in response to the DOJ’s submission.
The lawsuit was filed in May, with plaintiffs claiming that the law will force them to cancel property purchases and lose businesses, according to the complaint. They are being represented by several groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“Florida’s discriminatory property law is unfair, unjustified, and unconstitutional,” Ashley Gorski, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, wrote in a statement published on the organization’s website. “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.”
Florida’s law bars the purchase of land by Chinese citizens who are “domiciled” in China and restricts other foreign citizens of “countries of concern” from purchasing agricultural land or any real property within 10 miles of a “military installation or critical infrastructure facility” in the state, according to its text. Apart from China, “countries of concern” include Russia, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran.
The law does not apply to citizens of these countries who also hold U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency, according to the text.
DeSantis, who is running for president, said in January that it is “not in the best interests of Florida to have the Chinese Communist Party owning farmland, owning land close to military bases,” The Hill reported.
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