In an unexpected turn of events, the Biden administration recently argued against a new Florida law that restricts Chinese citizens from land ownership within the state. Labeling the law unconstitutional, Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a “statement of interest” on Tuesday in the lawsuit Shen v. Simpson. This case, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, seeks to invalidate the fresh state legislation scheduled to become operative this Saturday.
The DOJ argues that this Florida law infringes the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment and the Fair Housing Act, which outlaws discrimination based on national origin in property transactions.
The filing from the DOJ claims the law could “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.” Moreover, it added that the plaintiffs, a group of Chinese citizens living in Florida, “are likely to succeed on the merits” of their lawsuit.
Republican Florida Governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis countered the DOJ’s stance with a tweet: “While the Biden-Garland DOJ sides with Communist China, I side with the American people,” he said. “As governor, I prohibited CCP-tied entities from buying land in Florida. As president, I’ll do the same.”
The lawsuit was instigated in May, with the plaintiffs, who largely serve Chinese and Chinese-American clientele through brokerage businesses, claiming that the new law would disrupt property purchases and risk their businesses.
They have obtained legal representation from organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The Florida law in question not only bars Chinese citizens “domiciled” in China but also restricts other foreign citizens from “countries of concern” from purchasing agricultural land or property within 10 miles of a “military installation or critical infrastructure facility” in the state. This legislation, however, doesn’t apply to citizens of these countries who also hold U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency.
Defending the law, DeSantis argued that it is “not in the best interests of Florida to have the Chinese Communist Party owning farmland, owning land close to military bases.”
As we observe this legal battle unfold, it prompts questions about the balance between national security interests and individual rights, and who the Biden administration is truly choosing to side with.