On Monday, May 8th, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed three new laws with the intent to target the Chinese government in the name of national security. The new laws will restrict the Chinese government and many non-resident Chinese citizens from the purchase of farmland, or property near military bases and critical infrastructure, prohibit Florida’s state colleges and universities from partnering with foreign counterparts without approval from the state and will implement a list of banned applications such as Tik Tok that might be utilized by the Chinese or other governments for possible espionage against the United States.
While the three newly introduced laws in Florida use the broad language “foreign country of concern”, and efforts were made by the legislature to carve out exceptions to the law, the legislation and Governor DeSantis’ own words are often very specific in targeting China. No amount of effort to soften the laws can hide the racist and xenophobic intent and effect. These laws rely upon two age-old hysterias of our country: Anti-Communism, and the perpetual foreigner perception of Asian Americans and that of dual or continued loyalty to the ancestral country.
This current wave of nativist legislation in Florida parallels efforts elsewhere in the country and is nothing new. During World War II, the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans proved that prejudice can be legitimized through public policy in the name of national security. In 2017, the Muslim Travel Ban subjected nationals of several majority-Muslim countries to various travel restrictions from entering our country. The just-expired Title 42 restrictions blocked immigrants from entering through our southern border under the facade of a public health emergency.
Beyond the direct impact of these laws, the more likely result will be when a homeowner is considering two offers to purchase their home, and chooses not to sell to the Asian couple because they are perceived to be foreign, and refusing the sale would be an act of patriotism. These new laws give the green light to anti-Asian discrimination, even as our nation continues to experience unprecedented increases in anti-Asian hate. According to The Uniform Crime Reporting Program at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, from 2020 to 2021, reported hate crimes rose by more than 11%. Incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders increased 267% from 279 incidents in 2021 to 746 incidents in 2022.
Bias-motivated attacks and racial scapegoating are nothing new to this country; however, for the State of Florida to actively perpetuate national origin discrimination by issuing laws that broadly attack individuals and families from targeted countries such as China is not only harmful but also highly irresponsible. The correlation between hate-fueled rhetoric, discriminatory laws such as those passed in the state of Florida, and the rise in hate crimes amongst targeted communities cannot be ignored.
It has been only five years since Florida became the last state to repeal its existing Alien Land Law. It has now become the first to reinstate such a law and we call upon them to repeal this and urge other states to not follow their bad example.