Emil Guillermo: DeSantis outdoes Trump with putrid alien land law in Florida; Pew puts it in context

Image for Emil Guillermo: DeSantis outdoes Trump with putrid alien land law in Florida; Pew puts it in context

Last week, when the big news was inflation’s drop to three percent (the target was two percent), some observers wondered why people seemed underwhelmed.

Maybe it’s because our happiness is connected to more than just the price of gas and eggs.

But how can you cheer for an improving economy when your rights and freedoms are eroding before your eyes?

Inflation may be on the decline, but democracy’s in recession.

Rollbacks in abortion and affirmative action were expected. But a callback to alien land laws?

Those were the laws that prevented Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos from buying property in the U.S. going back to 1913. These laws prevented my family from buying property. Yours?

Long gone, such laws are making a comeback now that China has been identified as the nation’s Public Enemy No. 1 by politicos like Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.

In May before launching his campaign for president, DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 264, a discriminatory property law that restricts Chinese citizens from purchasing real estate in Florida. The law makes it a felony for Chinese to buy property in restricted areas near military installations and “critical infrastructure” like airports, wastewater treatment plants, power plants and the like.

And how’s this for negative diversity: Florida’s law also applies to citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea, but only makes their violations misdemeanors.

AALDEF joined the ACLU in a lawsuit to stop the new law, saying it unfairly punishes Chinese people for actions of their government when there is no evidence of national security risk.

To justify suspicion, all it takes is your Asian face and name. Is it fair to think all Chinese in America are members of the ChineseCommunist Party? That’s the perspective of SB 264.

Oral arguments on a preliminary injunction to stop the law took place in federal court in Tallahassee on Tuesday.

“While it’s clear that the law is unconstitutional and discriminatory, we know this law is unjust and reprehensible not because someone told us but because we’ve seen this before when these racist laws impact our friends and family,” said AALDEF Legal Director Bethany Li at a rally outside the courthouse. “Our community has experienced discriminatory laws since we stepped foot into this country.”

If the law stands, we could actually see de facto Chinese exclusion zones throughout Florida. The xenophobia doesn’t stop with Florida. This year,14 states had laws restricting foreign ownership and investments in land, according to AP. Now, six more states have added restrictive laws: Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.

The trend is real, which makes the legal battle to reverse Florida’s SB 264 as critical as any anti-Asian law that has come before it.

And it all starts with the stereotypical assumption made by DeSantis and his ilk: that Asians are perpetual foreigners, essentially the enemy, disloyal and not to be trusted.

Of course, they mean Asians in America, and not Asian Americans, but DeSantis doesn’t care if innocent Asian Americans are harmed by SB 264. It’s racism in the name of national security!

He wouldn’t have needed a law if he just did what Pew Research Center did: ask Chinese Americans how they really felt about China.


That’s the surprising headline after a multilingual nationally representative survey of more than 7,000 Asian American adults from July 5, 2022 to Jan. 27, 2023 by the Pew Research Center.

The survey found positive opinions of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, with mixed sentiments about Vietnam, the Philippines and India.

Only the opinions of China by Chinese Americans were predominantly negative.

Just 41 percent of Chinese Americans held a favorable view of China. In fact, Chinese American adults had a more favorable view of Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea than they did of China.

And as tensions increase between mainland China and Taiwan, Chinese Americans’ opinions of Taiwan run high. Sixty-two percent of Chinese Americans say they have a favorable view of Taiwan.

According to Pew, Chinese Americans’ views of Taiwan vary by nativity, immigration experience, and the length of time they’ve lived in the U.S.

Chinese immigrant adults are more likely than those born in the U.S. to hold favorable views of China (45 percent vs. 25 percent).

As for Taiwan, ABC’s (American Born Chinese) are more likely than immigrant adults to view Taiwan favorably (70 percent vs. 60 percent).

Pew also found that there’s little difference in views toward China based on political party affiliation. “Nearly identical shares of Republican and Democratic Asian Americans see China positively (20 percent and 18 percent respectively), and negatively (55 percent and 52 percent).

When it comes to China, Chinese Americans show a bipartisan negativity.

That’s a departure from past trends that found Republicans more likely than Democrats to hold an unfavorable opinion of China.

Now they both do.

And as far as the United States goes, three-quarters of Asian Americans have a favorable view of the U.S., including 44 percent who have a very favorable view.

About half of Asian Americans say the U.S. will be the world’s leading economic power over the next ten years.Only a third of Asian adults say China will be the leading power in the next decade.

The Pew survey findings help smash some xenophobic stereotypes. What do Asian Americans really think? When you ask them, you see how misguided a policy like SB 264 really is. It’s a bad law intended to target Chinese nationals but will likely hurt innocent Asian Americans more.

The lesson? Bad bills get signed into law when the prevailing belief among Republicans like DeSantis is that bigoted politics win elections.

It’s something they learned from Donald Trump.


If you don’t hear much about either the hearing on Florida’s SB 264 or the Pew Research findings in the news this week, it’s probably because most of the news space is being taken up by developments in the Trump legal epic.

Even DeSantis had a hard time on CNN trying to push his new anti-woke plan for the military that is anti-female, anti-trans, and anti-Diversity/Inclusion/Equity.

CNN, like other networks, were obsessed with Trump’s acknowledging receipt of a letter from special counsel Jack Smith saying Trump was a target of a federal investigation on the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump on social media said the letter gave him until Thursday “to report to the Grand Jury, which almost always means an Arrest and Indictment.”

He’s right about that. And if it all happens, it will be a third indictment quite different from his other two indictments.

It’s not about hush money to a porn star. Nor is it about mishandling of classified documents and national security secrets. That’s all important but the potential indictments over Jan. 6 are directly connected to the stealing of an election--a core crime against democracy.

It's not a “witch hunt.” It’s not, as Trump says, “all about election interference and a complete and total weaponization of law enforcement.”

The imminent third indictment would be a third strike against Trump, which could make his own party see the light.

They could simply stop trying to outdo Trump.

Or at least, start being more critical of Trump, currently the Republican front runner for both the White House and the Big House.

DeSantis could begin by dropping his extreme anti-woke ways, exemplified by his racist anti-Asian land law.

That would be a hopeful signal, a real turnaround in our country, where democracy appears to be in recession.

And if the third indictment doesn't do it, we know in Georgia a fourth one is near. The trend toward justice is our friend, not Trump's.


NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on