ORLANDO, Fla. — When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 264 into law last year, restrictions were put in place that prohibit Chinese nationals from “purchasing or acquiring any interest in real property in the state,” with limited exceptions.

Push-back against the bill has been ongoing, as Orlando-based immigration attorney Echo King, who is also president of Florida Asian American Justice Alliance, believes that in reality, the new law impacts anyone wanting to buy a home who looks Asian.

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 264 into law last year, which put in place restrictions on Chinese nationals' ability to purchase property in the state

  • Many in the Asian community are fighting against the law, saying its effects are impacting members of the Asian community who are not citizens of China

  • Orlando-based immigration attorney Echo King says the bill is unconstitutional and discriminatory

“Although the law only restricts the non-green card holder and non-U.S. citizens, but because of the way it is written, it would be hard for the seller to distinguish who is qualified and who is not,” said King.

King said the law's vague language is creating issues for real estate agents trying to discern who is qualified to buy property in Florida, and who is not.

For the last 12 years, real estate agent Yukey Hoo has helped her clients find their perfect homes in Florida, but says Senate Bill 264 is now making her job more difficult.

“It’s very frustrating and I feel uncomfortable,” said Hoo.

She said that because of the legislation, a lot of her Asian buyers and sellers are looking outside of the Sunshine State. Hoo said she is currently getting ready to sell a home in Clermont, because the owners are ready to cut ties with Florida over fears of discrimination.

“Because the bill SB 264, they don’t want to register," Hoo said. "So they were worried there is going to be another bill after, so they are trying to sell this house."

King said those concerns are understandable. She connected with Hoo as they both protested this law at the state capital last year, saying it is unconstitutional.

King explained that the law prohibits seven foreign countries of concern and their citizens from buying certain land — China, the Russian Federation, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro and the Syrian Arab Republic — but directly targets the Chinese by not allowing them to buy property in large portions of the state, with only a few exceptions.

“The violation of that was subject to severe civil and criminal penalties — even including up to five year imprisonment for any buyers, and up to one year imprisonment for sellers — so this is extremely harsh punishment for just buying a home," King said. "So this is discriminatory, and we think it is unconstitutional as well."

The law also requires Chinese nationals who already own property to register with the state or face steep fines of up to $1,000 a day.

“The justification is national security — we don’t understand why people have to register because of a national security concern," King said. "There is no reasoning behind this."

King said the ACLU has gotten involved, with a temporary injunction pending in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and more lawsuits are on the way.

“The people here are actually targeted because of the country of origin," King said. "It’s not that we did anything wrong, it’s because of where we were born and how we look. That is the definition of discrimination."

Hoo said that she must be careful as she does her job, because sellers and real estate agents could be held liable if they violate the law.