ORLANDO, Fla.A complaint was filed in district court Monday against a law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month.

The law would prohibit citizens of China or other countries of concern from purchasing farmland or property on or within ten miles of a military installation or critical infrastructure facility in Florida.

What You Need To Know

  • A lawsuit has been filed to stop a law recently signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis from going into effect

  • The law, SB 264, would prohibit Chinese citizens from owning farmland or property within ten miles of a military installation or critical infrastructure facility in Florida

  • DeSantis previously said the law would protect land and property from purchase by Chinese agents

  • The complaint calls the law “discriminatory” and “unconstitutional” and asks the court to stop it from going into effect

“This lawsuit challenges a new Florida law, SB 264, that 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,” the complaint states.

According to the ACLU’s website, the group is challenging the law along with the ACLU of Florida, DeHeng Law Offices PC, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, in coordination with the Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance. It said the move is on behalf of four individual plaintiffs and a real estate brokerage firm that primarily serves clients of Chinese descent.

DeSantis signed SB 264 on May 8 along with two other bills a news release said are designed to “counteract the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida”. DeSantis said of the bill, “Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — the Chinese Communist Party… I’m proud to sign this legislation to stop the purchase of our farmland and land near our military bases and critical infrastructure by Chinese agents.”

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson said in a statement earlier this month, “China and other hostile foreign nations control hundreds of thousands of acres of critical agricultural lands in the US, leaving our food supply and our national security interests at risk. Restricting China and other hostile foreign nations from controlling Florida’s agricultural land and lands near critical infrastructure facilities protects our state, provides long-term stability, and preserves our economic freedom.”

Simpson is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, as are Acting Florida Secretary of Economic Opportunity Meredith Ivey and Florida Real Estate Commission Chair Patricia Fitzgerald.

Stetson University College of Law Professor Paul Boudreaux said the law raises concerns in relation to the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law, as well as the federal Fair Housing Act.

“It says it’s unlawful to discriminate and to make unavailable housing for people, including based on ethnicity or national origin, and this law certainly seems to do that,” Boudreaux said. “Now, when government discriminates something like this, it might be able to justify it if there was some compelling governmental interest to justify why we would not let a Chinese citizen living in Florida…to purchase property. But it seems that the reasons for this are just vague concerns that somehow these governments that we do not want may somehow gain new information or gain power by the fact that we have citizens of their country residing and owning property in Florida. So, I think this kind of discrimination is going to be very difficult to defend.”

The law states that a citizen of China or another country of concern who owns farmland or property within ten miles of a military installation or critical infrastructure facility before the law goes into effect July 1 must register with the state’s department of economic opportunity. Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria are the other countries mentioned by the law.

According to the complaint, the individual plaintiffs live in Orlando, Miami and Daytona Beach. Each has unique concerns, but the lawsuit notes that all live within ten miles of a “critical infrastructure facility”.

“’Critical infrastructure facility’ and ‘military installation’ are so broadly defined under Florida’s New Alien Land Law that they bar affected individuals from being able to purchase property across much of the state,” the complaint reads.

Examples of a critical infrastructure facility listed in the law include a water treatment facility or wastewater treatment plant, an electrical power plant, and a chemical manufacturing facility. It defines a military installation as “a base, camp, post, station, yard, or center encompassing at least 10 contiguous acres that is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense or its affiliates.”

The complaint asks the court to stop the law from going into effect.