Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has a plan to protect his state from Communists. His first step in achieving that goal was to ban Chinese immigrants from buying property. Here’s how that’s working out a few months later.
Can’t Have It Both Ways
In May of 2023, the Florida legislature passed a bill, SB 264, banning some Chinese nationals from buying property in the state.
The law specifically applies to Chinese citizens who aren’t permanent U.S. residents and who own homes in China.
Party in Florida!
It was an easy sell for Governor Ron DeSantis, who signed the bill into law and applauded its passage.
According to DeSantis, this was a major step in reducing “the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida.”
Not Everyone Is Happy
But the new law didn’t sit well with everyone, including the state’s Chinese population.
Civil Rights Violation?
With support from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a group of Chinese immigrants almost immediately took the state to court over the new law.
They said it was a violation of their civil rights to limit their ability to own property.
Justice Department Supported Plaintiffs
None other than the United States Department of Justice threw their support behind the plaintiffs.
The DOJ also declared that the new law was unconstitutional.
They’ll Take Their Chances
That didn’t deter DeSantis or the state, though, who refused to back down and let the case go to trial.
Both Sides Digging In
The first judge to hear the case, in August, said the law can stand as written.
The ACLU and the group of Chinese immigrants are already planning their appeal.
In the meantime, real-life people in Florida have been dealing with the fallout of the new law for almost five months.
Bill Hit It’s Target
Most obvious among those affected are the Chinese nationals who are targets of SB 264.
Here Come Mom and Dad
For example, NBC News reports on the case of Kristen Zhang, who has lived in Florida for years.
She got the happy news from her parents earlier this year that they were planning to move from China to her own state.
Skin in the Game
With a chance to see their grandchildren on a regular basis, Zhang’s parents put a deposit down on a new build in Orlando.
No Longer Welcome
But then, the new law took effect, and the older couple was on the outside looking in when it came to buying a home in Florida.
Business Is Tanking
Zhang’s parents are far from alone, says Khalid Muneer, president of the Greater Orlando chapter of the Asian American Realtors Association.
He says he’s witnessed several of his real estate colleagues lose huge amounts of business since May.
Danger Ahead for Agents
Muneer worries about how real estate agents will be perceived and what punishments they might face as they try to enforce the new law.
On the one hand, anyone knowingly selling property to someone restricted by the law could face a year in prison and a $1000 fine.
The penalties are steeper for the buyer in such a case.
Walking On Eggshells
But Khalid says that real estate agents are walking on eggshells, trying to figure out how to navigate the new law and their client base.
On the Hot Seat
That has led to what amounts to racial profiling, with agents asking any “Asian-looking” buyers about their background.
And that opens up the entire industry to racism and bias and also opens up potential liability for individual agents who engage in such screening.
America Is No Home
As for Zhang, the law has already had a devastating effect on her and her family.
“They feel like America doesn’t welcome us,” she said. ”They don’t want to come here anymore.”
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Andrew Cline. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.