Florida Alien Land Law
Florida Alien Land Law
Briefing Paper for Florida HJR 1553 & SJR 84
Florida Legislature 2010
(Dr. Piyush C. Agrawal; Tel: 954 648 6494; firstname.lastname@example.org)
The original Naturalization Act of 1790 provided that “[a]ny alien being a free white person… may be admitted to become a citizen…” This was amended in 1870 to provide that naturalization was permitted only of “aliens, being free white persons and to aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent.” Others were referred to as “aliens ineligible to citizenship.” i.e. all Asian Immigrants.
In1913, California Gov. Hiram Johnson signed the Alien Land Law. The Alien Land Laws were statutes passed by various states between 1920 and 1950 that banned “aliens ineligible to citizenship” from owning, leasing or inheriting land. The language used in these laws carefully avoided direct reference to Asian immigrants, though there was little ambiguity of their intent.
The U. S. Immigration Act of 1924 had prohibited citizenship to Japanese, Chinese, Indian and other Asian and Pacific Island immigrants.
Florida enacted its Alien Land Law in 1926 with an innocuous-sounding phrase in the constitution guaranteeing “all natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights among which are the right to enjoy and defend life, and liberty, to pursue happiness, to be rewarded for industry and to acquire, possess and protect property, except that the ownership, inheritance, disposition and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship may be regulated or prohibited by law. —“
Only Florida and New Mexico’s laws were in the state constitutions, requiring voter, not lawmakers, approval to have them struck. Voters in New Mexico amended their constitution in 2006 thus leaving Florida as the only state with such an exclusionary & discriminative law and it continues to be a law even in 21st Century despite the fact that USA is the greatest champion of human rights.
Florida Legislature took a bold step in 2008 to put the amendment to the Constitution. As Senator Geller put it then “You don’t want to keep vestiges of racism in your constitution.” But, alas, due to a faulty language on the ballot and lack of proper education of voters about the amendment, it failed.
There is another opportunity this year for the Florida Legislature to amend the constitution by doing the right thing and removing the scar of “racism” from Florida’s face. Also, why to keep something on the books which have never been implemented? Florida is a pioneer state that has taken several bold and far reaching initiatives. Let us not be left behind again.
A Word of Gratitude: The Asian American Community of Florida expresses its gratitude to Senator Eleanor Sobel and Representative Kevin Rader for taking up this cause through filing SJR 84 and HJR 1553.
Honorable Senators & Representatives of the House:
Please support SJR 84 & HJR 1553
Dr. Piyush C. Agrawal, Chairman
Asian American Federation of Florida
1625 Eagle Bend, Weston, FL 33327
# # #