ACLU sues Florida for anti-Asian housing discrimination


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing Florida for anti-Asian housing discrimination over SB 264, a law aimed at restricting Chinese nationals from purchasing property in the state.

The lawsuit: The lawsuit was filed by a group of Chinese citizens living in Florida and a real estate brokerage firm serving clients of Chinese descent to challenge Florida’s SB 264, which was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis in May.

The legislation restricts most Chinese citizens and other citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia and North Korea from purchasing homes in the state. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU and their partners, argue that the law is not about national security and perpetuates anti-Asian discrimination.

Violating the constitution: In the lawsuit known as Shen v. Simpson, the ACLU accuses the state of violating both the Constitution and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. They contend that it unfairly targets Chinese individuals and hinders the dreams of Chinese families, students and business owners looking to establish a life in Florida.

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“Florida’s discriminatory property law is unfair, unjustified, and unconstitutional,” said Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. “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.”

“All Asian Americans will feel the stigma and the chilling effect created by this Florida law, just like the discriminatory laws did to our ancestors more than a hundred years ago,” added Clay Zhu, attorney with DeHeng Law Offices PC and co-founder of the Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance. “We shall not go back.”

About the bill: The bill received a 95-17 House vote and a 31-8 Senate vote. It reached DeSantis’ desk in early May and was signed just days afterward. Homeowners in Florida are required to register their properties with the state starting January 2024. Failure to do so will result in a fine of $1,000 per day.

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