A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked a Florida law banning Chinese citizens from buying property in the Sunshine State.

Gov. DeSantis signed SB 264 in May 2023 to “counteract the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida.”

“With the legislation signed today to limit Chinese purchases of agriculture land and land near military bases and critical infrastructure, to protect digital data from Chinese spies, and to root out Chinese influence in Florida’s education system, Florida has once again taken the lead in protecting American interests from foreign threats and has provided a blueprint for other states to do the same,” DeSantis said in a press release at the time.

Four Chinese citizens living in Florida and a real estate brokerage firm primarily serving Chinese and Chinese American clients challenged the legislation.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Florida from enforcing the law against two of the plaintiffs.

NBC News reports:

A Florida federal judge in August had declined to block the law, prompting an appeal by the plaintiffs. The 11th Circuit blocked enforcement of the law against the two plaintiffs pending the outcome of the case.

Lawmakers in several Republican-led states including Texas, Louisiana and Alabama are considering similar restrictions on Chinese citizens owning property. China’s foreign ministry said last year that such laws “violate the rules of market economy and international trade rules.”

The office of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Florida’s ban violates the U.S. Constitution by specifically targeting Chinese citizens, said Bethany Li, legal director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, one of the groups representing the plaintiffs.

“Today’s ruling should serve as a warning to other states who are considering passing similarly racist bills, steeped in a history when Asians were ineligible for citizenship and were told they didn’t belong,” Li said in a statement.

From The Epoch Times:

The appeals court has halted enforcement of the law with respect to two of the five plaintiffs until it rules on the merits of the case (oral arguments scheduled for April), with the judges arguing that because of recent and pending transactions, the two plaintiffs face “imminent risk of irreparable harm” if enforcement of the law isn’t paused.

The temporary limited freeze of SB 264 was met with a critical response from Mr. DeSantis’s office.

“We disagree with the 11th Circuit’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction pending appeal to two of the plaintiffs in this case,” Julia Friedland, deputy press secretary for the Florida governor’s office, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.

“That being said, our law is still very much in effect, we are confident in our legal position on the merits, and we will continue to fight back against foreign malign influence in Florida,” she added.

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By contrast, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is one of several groups representing the Chinese nationals in their legal action, praised the decision.

“There’s no doubt that Florida’s discriminatory housing law is unconstitutional,” Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney at ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement. “The court’s decision brings two of our clients tremendous relief, and we will continue fighting to prevent this law from being enforced more broadly.”

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