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Lawsuit challenges constitutionality of SB 264, limiting ag land purchases by foreign countries, entities of concern, CCP

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Signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May, SB264 ‘Interests of Foreign Countries’ restricts governmental entities from contracting with foreign countries and entities of concern, including the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba, the Venezuelan regime of Nicolas Maduro, or the Syrian Arab Republic, and restricts conveyances of agricultural lands and other interests in real property to foreign principals, the People’s Republic of China, and other entities and persons that are affiliated with them.

The measure allows Chinese citizens with non-tourist visas to buy single land parcels, two acres or smaller, that are at least five miles from military installations or other critical infrastructure.

Chinese Americans and those who are permanent residents of the U.S. are exempt from the ban.

On May 22, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with Yifan Shen, DeHeng Law Offices PC, the Asian American Legal Defense (AALDEF), and Education Fund, in coordination with the Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance (CALDA) sued the state of Florida in U.S. District Court for the Northeastern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division on grounds that the measure unfairly restricts most Chinese citizens — and most citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea — from purchasing homes in the state.

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On June 30, the plaintiffs and defendant state attorneys filed a joint motion to “stay” all deadlines for the defendant state attorneys. 

The filing explains, “Here, a stay is reasonable and supported by good cause because it will
simplify the issues in question, reduce the burden of litigation, and will not burden the other defendants.”

In the motion to stay all deadlines, the Florida state attorneys for the defendants agree “To comply with and be bound by the terms of any injunction, preliminary or permanent, that may be entered in this matter against Defendants…”

They additionally agree “Not to enforce (or seek to enforce) an enjoined provision of SB 264 (2023)’ during the time such an injunction is in place, or against conduct that was protected by such an injunction at the time that conduct occurred, even if such injunction was later vacated; and

“That any judgment in this action declaring SB 264 unconstitutional will be binding on themselves, their respective offices, successors in office, and all personnel acting on behalf of their respective offices.”

As of yet, the court has not granted the joint motion.

The DOJ filed a Statement of Interest in the lawsuit on June 27, stating that the measure violates the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

“These unlawful provisions will cause serious harm to people simply because of their national origin, contravene federal civil rights laws, undermine constitutional rights, and will not advance the State’s purported goal of increasing public safety,” the statement read.

Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) was not available for comment.

Rep. Jeff Holcomb (R-Spring Hill) said that the DOJ is reacting politically. 

“As a realtor, I know how this law is being implemented, and it will not violate fair housing, and the DOJ knows it,” Holcomb said. “This is just another example of the Department of Justice (DOJ) being politically weaponized against our own citizens.”

 

Editor’s Note: A comment from Rep. Jeff Holcomb was added on July 3, 2023.

Correction: The article was heavily revised on July 4, 2023, to correct the error that the court had already ruled the law unconstitutional. Information on the joint motion to stay all deadlines was added.  We apologize for the error and will diligently work to correct any and all errors. 

 

 

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