In a huge blow to a lawsuit brought by four Chinese citizens, a real estate firm, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a federal judge Thursday has rejected their attempts to block a new Florida law restricting Chinese nationals, and nationals of some other countries, from buying land or homes in the state.
U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor, a former President Donald Trump appointee, released a 51-page decision outlining his rejection of the injunction request, writing that the U.S. Supreme Court has “held that states could deny aliens ownership interests in land within their respective borders absent an arbitrary or unreasonable basis.”
The controversial law, SB 264, which was put into effect on July 1, puts strict guidelines in place to protect Florida “from the rising “geo-political threat” of the Chinese government subverting national and state security.” Apart from Chinese citizens, it restricts immigrants from countries including Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Syria.
On the other hand, the Biden administration has filed a “statement of interest” in support of the lawsuit, maintaining that the new law is unconstitutional in violating federal law and the U.S. Constitution and will “cause serious harm to people simply because of their national origin.”
“In our view, which the U.S. Government has supported as an amicus, people from China should be no less welcome in Florida than they are elsewhere in the United States and free to participate in the housing market on equal footing with everyone else,” said Derek Shaffer, a partner at Quinn Emanuel, the law firm representing the plaintiffs.
When asked for a reaction to the court’s ruling, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he was “pleased with the decision.”
“As I have emphasized many times before, it is my duty as Governor to always look out for the best interests of Florida and its citizens. The Constitution and laws of the United States are designed to protect our citizens’ rights without discriminating against any group. Florida’s new law does just that—locking down Florida’s real estate market to protect it from foreign threats,” he said in a statement.
Advocates for the ACLU hoped for better results but still plan to move forward with the appeal.
“While today’s decision is disheartening, our clients will continue to fight for their rights to equality and fairness on appeal,” said Ashley Gorski, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project.
It remains to be seen how this back-and-forth plays out. Given this ruling, however, it appears the ACLU may have a tough battle ahead of them.