Chinese nationals sue Florida over law barring them from buying land near US military bases

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


A group of Chinese citizens has sued Florida over the state’s law barring them from purchasing land or structures within 10 miles of any military installation or “critical infrastructure facility.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit on behalf of four Chinese nationals living in Florida, claiming that the law discriminates “against people of Asian descent in violation of the Constitution and the Fair Housing Act,” according to a press release

The suit asserts that the law “will also cast an undue burden of suspicion on anyone seeking to buy property” on the basis of their nationality of origin. Plaintiffs said that the “misguided rationale” for the law “unfairly equates Chinese people with the actions of their government,” and that “there is no evidence of national security harm resulting from real estate ownership by Chinese people in Florida.”

The plaintiffs are also represented by the ACLU of Florida, DeHeng Law Offices PC, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), in coordination with the Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance (CALDA).

“Florida’s discriminatory property law is unfair, unjustified, and unconstitutional,” Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement. “Everyone in the United States is entitled to equal protection under our laws, including citizens of other countries. If SB 264 goes into effect, it will profoundly harm our clients and countless other immigrants in Florida.”

Daniel Tilley, legal director for the ACLU of Florida vowed that “[t]he discriminatory policies pushed by the DeSantis administration will not go unchecked. The Constitution protects us all.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 264, or “Interests of Foreign Countries,” into law earlier this month. The legislation prohibits the Chinese Communist Party or any affiliated entity from purchasing land or buildings within 10 miles of a U.S. military installation or “critical infrastructure facility.” The law similarly bars citizens from other countries hostile to the U.S. — including Iran, North Korea, and Russia — from doing so. Exceptions are made for holders of non-tourist visas, who are allowed to purchase a single property that is no less than five miles away from sensitive sites not to exceed two acres.

SB 264 is one among a trio of laws signed by DeSantis aimed at targeting “the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.

“Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — the Chinese Communist Party,” DeSantis said.

Days prior to the governor’s announcement, The U.S. Treasury Department recommended that the federal government take similar action. 

Republicans have been sounding the alarm since August 2022 that individuals and entities linked to the Chinese Communist Party have been buying up land near sensitive military and infrastructure sites. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), who signed a law similar to Florida’s in May of 2022, said at the time that CCP-linked entities had purchased $2 billion worth of agricultural land in the U.S. by the beginning of 2020, though numerous additional acquisitions have taken place since then. 

The FBI warned in July 2022 that Chinese-installed tech equipment on U.S. soil was capable of disrupting sensitive Department of Defense communications. 

Florida’s new law is slated to take effect July 1.