Chinese Citizens Hit By Florida Property Ban: “Very Un-American”

The American Dream came crashing down for Chinese nationals sans green cards, thanks to the law signed last year by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

No Properties to Purchase

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On July 1st, 2023, Florida Senate Bill 264 went into effect, claiming that any Chinese citizen without a green card could face a felony charge PLUS a possible prison sentence should they decide to purchase Florida property. 

Combatting Communists? 

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In his statement last year, DeSantis said, “Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)”.

Others Also Unwelcome 

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SB 264 also disqualifies most citizens from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela from purchasing properties within 10 miles of military installations and infrastructure, like airports and power plants. 

Harder on the Chinese 

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Yet, Florida’s law hits Chinese citizens the hardest, since they are specifically barred from buying any property in the state. This law also extends to anybody attempting to sell properties to Chinese, such as real estate agents. 

A Shock to Chinese Floridians 

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Jin Bian, a 31-year-old software engineer, is from Nanjing, China, yet has been living in the US for 12 years. His H-1B visa allows him to be employed by US companies. But when Bian considered buying property closer to his work in Tampa, Florida, he was told he could be sent to prison. 

No More House Hunting 

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Bian said that once he learned of this fact, he stopped looking for another house. “That was really shocking to me. It’s just purchasing property,” Bian said. Like many other Chinese citizens in the state, he is reconsidering his residential options in Florida.

Legal, but Not Welcome?

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Susan Li shares Bian’s frustration. Although the 47-year-old small business owner in Orlando possesses a legal green card, she said she “really felt the discrimination”. She and her family also stopped looking for a new home once they learned about the bill, for fear of potential legal repercussions. 

A Legal Battle 

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An attorney representing four Chinese nationals living in Florida, Ashley Gorski, stated in April that “Florida is unlawfully restricting housing for Chinese people” to a three-judge panel from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

A Step Back? 

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Comparing it to long-overturned laws from the early 20th century that disqualified Chinese from purchasing property, Gorski told the court: “It is singling out people from particular countries in a way that is anathema to the equal protection guarantees that now exist”.

A Reaction to Threats 

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However, Florida-representative attorney, Nathan Forrester, claims the law fits perfectly with the Biden administration’s national security concerns. This includes threats posed to the US by the Chinese government. 

Not a Race Issue

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Forrester states that “It is not about race,” and that “The concern is about the Chinese government, and that is what this law is designed to do. The concern is the manipulation of the Chinese government.”

No Political Agenda 

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Bian disagrees: “We’re ordinary people. We don’t talk about these political things”. He also added, “I think 99.99% of people here just want to have a good life.” 

Sensitive Timing 

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SB 264 is introduced at a time when the relationship between the US and China is growing more tense. Fears of Chinese spies increased last year after a Chinese surveillance balloon was shot down by the US over Montana. 

A Threat to the US? 

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This comes after allegations that Chinese-owned apps, such as TikTok, are used for spying on the US. Although this has been denied by TikTok, it hasn’t stopped US lawmakers from warning citizens that agricultural land purchased by the Chinese poses a national security threat. 

Made in US, Owned by China? 

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The US Department of Agriculture has claimed that, as of June 2024, about 349,442 acres of agricultural and non-agricultural land in the US is owned by China. This percentage represents just under 1% of all foreign-held land in the US. 

Beware the Communists 

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However, Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin claimed on social media last year that, “The Chinese Communist Party, a dangerous foreign adversary, should not own Virginia’s farmland,” and added, “That’s common sense.”

Pure Discrimination?

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Now the law has officially been challenged. Attorney Clay Zhu partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the state. “We think this is a form of discrimination based on race, based on national origin and based on visa status.”

Unfair Treatment 

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Zhu further stated, “People feel as if they are being treated as spies or agents of the Chinese government”. “It’s very unfair and also very un-American.”

More States to Follow? 

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But other Republican-led states such as Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, might follow suit with similar restrictions for Chinese citizens. This caused China’s foreign ministry to state that such laws “violate the rules of market economy and international trade rules.” 

A Useless Green Card?

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Li says, “No matter if I have a green card or I’m a citizen, I still have a Chinese face”. Both she and Bian hope that the law will be overturned, yet say they are considering leaving Florida. As Bian puts it, “I don’t think California will ever have this kind of law”. 

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