A group of Chinese citizens living and working in Florida filed a lawsuit Monday against the state over a new law that prohibits people of China acquire property in large portions of the entity.
The law specifies properties located within a 16-kilometer (10-mile) radius of military installations and other “critical infrastructure” and also affects citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia and North Korea. But Chinese citizens and those who sell them property face the heaviest penalties. The ban also includes farmland.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU for its initials in English) says the law will have a significant chilling effect on sales to people in China and other parts of Asia who can legally acquire property. The lawsuit claims that the law unfairly equates the people of China with the actions of their government, and that there is no evidence of a national security risk from Chinese citizens buying property in Florida.
The law “codify and expand housing discrimination against people of Asian descent, in violation of the Constitution and the Fair Housing Act”the ACLU said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “It will also place an undue burden of suspicion on anyone who wants to buy property and whose name sounds remotely Asian, Russian, Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan or Syrian.”
Relations between the United States and China are sensitive due to rising security and trade tensions. In nearly a dozen state legislatures and in the federal Congress, long-standing concern over foreign-owned land has reached an all-time high since a Chinese spy balloon took to the skies from Alaska to South Carolina last month.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is scheduled to announce his presidential campaign this week, signed the bill into law on May 8. His office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1. It makes it a felony for Chinese citizens to purchase property in restricted areas or for any person or real estate company to knowingly sell property to restricted persons. For the other mentioned nations, the penalty is a misdemeanor for both buyer and seller.
The restriction radius is applicable to both military installations and airports and seaports, water treatment plants, oil and natural gas processing facilities, electricity generating plants, spaceports, and telecommunications switching central offices.
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