Bloomberg Law: Florida Blocked From Banning Home Buying by Chinese Citizens

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 24, 2022. Credit: Tristan Wheelock/Bloomberg

By Andrew Kreighbaum

  • Law barred Chinese citizens from buying property in state
  • Court blocks enforcement against two individual plaintiffs

A federal appeals court halted the enforcement of a Florida law banning citizens of China from purchasing property in the state against two plaintiffs.

The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit found Thursday that the plaintiffs—including workers on H-1B specialty occupation visas and an Orlando-based real estate firm—showed a substantial likelihood of success in arguing that SB 264 was preempted by federal statute. The appeals court halted enforcement of the law until it rules on the merits of the challenge.

The preliminary injunction will apply to two individual plaintiffs challenging the rule—Yifan Shen and Zhiming Xu—because “their recent and pending transactions create the most imminent risk of irreparable harm in the absence of a stay,” the court said. The request for a preliminary injunction was otherwise denied.

“There’s no doubt that Florida’s discriminatory housing law is unconstitutional,” Ashley Gorski, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “The court’s decision brings two of our clients tremendous relief, and we will continue fighting to prevent this law from being enforced more broadly.”

Under the law, non-citizens whose “domicile” is in China are banned from purchasing any property in the state, with narrow exceptions including for asylees. The law included a similar, although less restrictive, ban on immigrants from several other “countries of concern” including Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Syria.

Foreign nationals who purchased property in Florida before July 1 were required to register with the state.

The ACLU sued in 2023 to block the law backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), arguing that SB 264 violated equal protection and due process guarantees under the Constitution. A district court judge denied an injunction request in August.

Plaintiffs challenging the law are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, DeHeng Law Offices PC, and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP.

The governor’s office disagrees with the Eleventh Circuit’s decision, deputy press secretary Julie Friedland said.

“That being said, our law is still very much in effect, we are confident in our legal position on the merits, and we will continue to fight back against foreign malign influence in Florida,” she said in an email.

The case is Shen v. Comm’r, Fla. Dep’t of Agric., 11th Cir., No. 23-12737, preliminary injunction granted 2/1/24.


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