Florida has enacted two new anti-immigration bills in the last couple of weeks – Senate Bill 264 and Senate Bill 1718. In summary, Senate Bill 264 says the following:
– Mandates that a foreign principal may not directly or indirectly own, have a controlling interest in, or acquire agricultural land or any interest in such land, or in real property on or within 10 miles of any military installation or other critical infrastructure (including chemical facilities, refineries, electrical plants, telecommunication switching offices, seaports, spaceports, airports, etc.), other than a de minimus indirect interest, which is generally defined as being a less than a 5% ownership of the entity or company owning the land.
– As of July 1, 2023, buyers will be required to provide an affidavit attesting that the buyer is not a foreign principal.
– An exemption exists for agricultural land owned before July 1, 2023, but foreign principals who own agricultural land after that date and wish to continue to do so must comply with a registration requirement. Foreign principals who fail to register in a timely fashion will be subject to a $1,000 per day civil penalty.
In addition to the restrictions highlighted above, the law also imposes specific limits on property ownership by citizens of the People’s Republic of China:
– Prohibits China, the Chinese Communist Party or other Chinese political party officials or members, Chinese business organizations, and persons domiciled in China, but who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States from purchasing or acquiring any interest in real property in the state.
– Creates a registration requirement for owners prior to the effective date and requires buyers of real property after the effective date submit an affidavit attesting that the buyer is not subject to the requirements of this section.
– Provides a limited exception from the ownership restrictions for the purchase of one residential property by a Chinese national (directly in their own name) of up to two acres, as long as it is not on or within five miles of any military installation in the state and the purchaser possesses a valid U.S. visa. Real property that is used for diplomatic purposes is also exempted.
– The law includes a de minimus indirect interest exception and also precludes a group of individuals with de minimus indirect interests from pooling their ownership to acquire a controlling interest in a property.
Senate Bill 1718 add the following:
– Criminalizes the act of transporting an undocumented individual into Florida (but not around Florida)
– Requires hospitals to collect immigration status information from patients
– Requires Florida employers to document employment verification procedures for state law purposes AND mandates e-Verify participation for most Florida employers (except those under 25 employees)
It should be noted that violations of all the above may result in either civil or criminal penalties depending on the violation.
Problems with the Bill and Reactions
Florida’s new anti-immigrant law has been met with criticism and anger from immigrant rights advocates and the Latinx community. The law is anti-immigrant and will harm the state’s economy. Immigrants are major contributors to Florida’s economy, and their labor and businesses are critical to the state’s economic growth. According to the American Immigration Council, immigrants in Florida paid $10.4 billion in federal taxes and $4.8 billion in state and local taxes in 2018. Additionally, immigrants make up more than 20 percent of the state’s total population. By passing a law that targets immigrants, Florida Republicans are alienating a significant portion of the state’s population, which could lead to negative economic consequences.
The law also undermines public safety by creating a culture of fear among immigrant communities. By allowing police officers to question individuals’ immigration status, the law could deter immigrants from reporting crimes or cooperating with law enforcement, out of fear that they will be deported or their information will be used against their family and friends. This could lead to a rise in crime and threaten public safety.
Finally, the law violates basic human rights and dignity. Immigrants are human beings, and their rights should be protected and respected, regardless of their immigration status. The law sends a message that immigrants are not welcome in Florida and that they do not deserve the same rights and protections as other residents. This is unjust and goes against the values of freedom and democracy that the United States claims to uphold.
Apparently at least some republican lawmakers in Florida now regret passing this bill because of the backlash. (See here and here ). According to the lawmakers in those articles, immigrants should not worry about the above because, according to them, it will not be, and was not meant to be, used against current immigrants in Florida. Its intent was just “to scare future undocumented immigrants away”. They say that the bill, which threatens fines and prison time “has no teeth”. This is the response to the exodus from Florida and the potential tanking of their economy from Florida Lawmakers.
The passage of this law is a mistake, and it is incumbent upon Florida Republicans to recognize this and work to repeal it. Instead of targeting immigrants, Florida should work to create policies that support and uplift all residents, regardless of their background or origin. This will require a shift in mindset, away from fear and division and towards compassion and unity.
Immigrants are an essential part of the fabric of Florida and the United States, and they deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and justice. Florida’s new anti-immigrant law is a step in the wrong direction, and it is time for the state to course correct and create policies that reflect the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights