TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — A federal judge upheld a new Florida law that prohibits people from “foreign countries of concern” from buying certain kinds of land in the Sunshine State.
On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Allen Winsor denied a preliminary injunction request that would have blocked the new restrictions from being enforced. The law prohibits anyone “domiciled” in China from purchasing land “on or within 10 miles of any military installation or critical infrastructure facility” in the state of Florida.
Upon signing SB 264 in May, Governor Ron DeSantis said the restrictions were designed to “counteract the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida.” Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria were also listed among the “countries of concern” in the legislation.
The plaintiffs – which included four Chinese citizens living in Florida and a brokerage that does business with Chinese citizens – argued that the restrictions violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses, the Fair Housing Act and the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.
Windsor ruled that the law did not violate the Constitution, citing limitations within the Fourteenth Amendment.
“The [U.S. Supreme] Court held in Terrace v. Thompson that the Fourteenth Amendment did not divest states of the ‘power to deny to aliens the right to own land within [their] borders,’” Windsor wrote in his 51-page decision.
The law also does not violate the Fair Housing Act nor the Supremacy Clause, according to Winsor. The judge determined that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate “a substantial likelihood that unlawful animus motivated the Legislature” in passing SB 264.
Winsor repudiated accusations – such as those from the ACLU – that the law was racially motivated, writing: “As for the statements from the Governor or Legislators, none evinces racial animus or any intent to discriminate based on race or where someone was born.”
“Nor do they show any intent to discriminate against Chinese citizens ‘because of’ their Chinese citizenship,” Winsor continued. “Instead, the statements are consistent with motivations independent of any protected traits.”