Eleventh Circuit Grants Partial Injunction Against Florida Law Restricting Land Purchases by Individuals from ‘Foreign Countries of Concern’


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit partially grants injunction against Florida law restricting land purchases by individuals from “foreign countries of concern”


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has partially granted an injunction on a Florida law that places restrictions on land purchases by individuals from “foreign countries of concern.” The court found that these restrictions are preempted by federal law, specifically the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (FIRRMA), which means that federal regulations concerning foreign investments in real estate supersede state laws.

The injunction was granted for two plaintiffs, Yifan Shen and Zhiming Xu, due to the immediate risk of irreparable harm their pending real estate transactions posed. This ruling effectively prevents the enforcement of Senate Bill 264 against Shen and Xu, while the broader enforcement of the law will remain in place until a final decision is made.

Circuit Judge Nancy G. Abudu concurred with the partial grant and argued that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. She criticized the law for explicitly targeting individuals of Chinese descent, supported by the language of the statute, public statements from Florida officials, and the impact of the law itself.

Abudu further contended that the district court’s reliance on “outdated precedents” fails to withstand current constitutional scrutiny. She emphasized that the Supreme Court has evolved towards stringent scrutiny of state laws discriminating based on nationality or alienage.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 264, establishes restrictions on citizens of China, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea. Chinese residents in Florida, along with a real estate brokerage catering predominantly to Chinese clientele, filed a lawsuit against the state earlier this year, arguing that the law would unfairly burden anyone with an Asian, Russian, Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan, or Syrian-sounding name seeking to purchase property.

Attorneys representing the state of Florida argued that the legislation is constitutional and upholds the state’s right to regulate land within its own borders. They emphasized that the law is not based on national origin or race but on permanent resident status.

State leaders, including Governor Ron DeSantis and Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson, have expressed their intention to crack down on foreign businesses, particularly those from China, buying up large tracts of farmland in Florida.

The United States Department of Justice has previously filed a Statement of Interest supporting the broader lawsuit against Senate Bill 264, arguing that the provisions within the legislation violate the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Protection Clause.

Key Points:

  1. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit partially grants an injunction against a Florida law restricting land purchases by individuals from “foreign countries of concern.”
  2. The court finds that the law is preempted by federal law, specifically the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018.
  3. Circuit Judge Nancy G. Abudu concurs with the partial grant and argues that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Conclusion:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has partially granted an injunction against a Florida law that places restrictions on land purchases by individuals from “foreign countries of concern.” The court found that federal law preempts these state restrictions and highlighted potential constitutional violations concerning equal protection. The injunction was granted for two plaintiffs, Yifan Shen and Zhiming Xu, due to the immediate risk of irreparable harm their pending real estate transactions posed. The broader enforcement of the law will remain in place until a final decision is made. This ruling has significant implications for foreign investments in real estate and raises questions about the constitutionality of state laws targeting specific nationalities.

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