Tallahassee Democrat: Florida's Chinese land ownership law debated in court as protesters gather outside
By Alicia Devine/ Tallahassee Democrat
A federal judge listened to more than two hours of arguments Tuesday about whether he should block a new Florida law that restricts people from China from owning property in the state.
Ahead of the court hearing, more than 60 people gathered in front of Florida's Historic Capitol to voice their opposition to Senate Bill 264 “Interests of Foreign Countries” act, which was passed on May 8 and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The rally was hosted by the Florida Asian American Justice Alliance (FAAJA), a group created after a similar protest in April. The activists traveled from in and out of state, some in what they called "freedom buses" to share their concerns about what they say is a "discriminatory" law while also advocating for justice and equality for the Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community.
Dozens, several donned in yellow to symbolize the fight for rights of the AAPI, stood on the steps of the Federal Courthouse with signs that read "Stop Asian hate" and "No SB264."
“There are always all of these stereotypes and really tired tropes that governments have used, perpetuating Asians as foreigners and enemies of the state,” Bethany Li, an attorney with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund who also represents the plaintiffs, told reporters before the hearing.
The bill prevents the foreign countries of concern and their officers from buying farmland as well as property within 10 miles of a military installation or critical infrastructure facility.
But no one connected with the Chinese government or the CCP is allowed to purchase real estate anywhere in Florida under the bill, nor can anyone who is "domiciled" in China and not a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident. Though, lawmakers added in an exception for non-tourist Visa holders, as long as they buy one real estate property that is not within five miles of one of these installations and not larger than two acres.
That exception didn't satisfy the lawsuit's plaintiffs, who filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, trying to overturn the law. They were joined by the U.S. Department of Justice in alleging the law imposes "discriminatory prohibitions on the ownership and purchase of real property based on race, ethnicity, alienage and national origin — and imposes especially draconian restrictions on people from China."
During the hearing, U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor asked numerous questions of attorneys for the state and plaintiffs seeking a preliminary injunction against the law. He said he would make a decision as soon as he can but that a ruling would not be “super imminent.”