AsAm News: In Florida, protestors rally against discriminatory alien land law bill

Image for AsAm News: In Florida, protestors rally against discriminatory alien land law bill
Rally outside Tallahassee courthouse. Credit: Erich Martins/ ACLU

By Julia Tong/AsAm News

On Tuesday, 80 people gathered outside the steps of the Joseph Woodrow Hatchett U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee, Fla. Wearing yellow shirts and braving the 100-degree heat, they rallied against Senate Bill (SB) 264, a bill that restricts land ownership by Chinese Americans.

The rally was organized by the Florida Asian American Justice Alliance (FAAJA) and the Yick Wo Institution and brought together affected people and groups from both within and outside of Florida. Protestors rode “freedom buses” to attend the rally in Tallahassee; organizations in attendance included the National Iranian American Council, Stop AAPI Hate, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Fair Housing Alliance and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Patrick Toomey, a Deputy Director of the ACLU, is part of the team challenging SB 264. Ultimately, the law, he says, is “unjustified, unfair and unconstitutional.”


“Like so many times in the past, these are racist policies being promoted based on false claims of national security,” Toomey said. “Florida’s dangerous new law should sound alarm bells for anyone who has taken a history class or read about similar racist efforts over the past century to weaponize false claims of national security against Asian immigrants and other marginalized communities.”

But affected communities in the state have been fighting back. In May, four Chinese immigrants who live in Florida, alongside a Florida real estate brokerage firm, challenged the law. The plaintiffs were represented by DeHeng Law Offices, the ACLU, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and other organizations in the resulting case, Shen vs. Simpson.

The plaintiffs argued that SB 264 is unconstitutional under the the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which bans discrimination when buying a home, and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The Department of Justice concurred, filing a Statement of Interest in support of the plaintiffs and the ACLU in June.


“It’s not a final ruling,” Toomey said. “But it does reflect the court’s kind of initial or preliminary view on the strength of the arguments in the case.”

“We say [SB 264 is] legalized hate.”

According to advocates, the injunction against SB 264 is especially urgent. Immigration lawyer and FAAJA founder Echo King said the bill has already had significant impacts on Asian Americans and immigrants in Florida.


However, SB 264 stands out in this landscape: it is the first alien land law to be passed and has some of the most restrictive terms and severe penalties. The outcome of Shen vs. Simpson could have nationwide ramifications, setting a precedent for lawsuits in other states.

This context, King said, underscores the importance of the rally on Tuesday — and the ongoing fight against SB 264.

“The fight in Florida is not alone,” she said. “This hurts the whole of Chinese American in the whole country and also other groups as well because discrimination against one race will be discrimination to all, right? So we really [need to] unite together.”

“We understand that it takes a long, long time,” she added. “It’s going to be a long fight.”


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