Amendment 11: Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes.

AuthorMartinez, Roberto
PositionThird Florida Constitution Revision Commission Proposals

This amendment combines three proposals that were first individually passed by the commission.

Repeal of Florida Alien Land Law

The first proposal repeals the "Florida Alien Land Law," thus, removing anachronistic language that would permit discriminatory treatment of the property rights of alien immigrants. Fla. Const. art. I, [section]2, sets forth the "Basic Rights" of all natural persons, including the right to "acquire, possess, and protect property." But art. I, [section]2, contains an exception--known as the "Florida Alien Land Law"--that allows for the regulation and prohibition of those rights as to "real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship."

In 1913, California passed the first "Alien Land Law," which was aimed at the Japanese in response to the fear of unfair agricultural competition from an influx of Japanese agricultural workers. (1) The law prohibited persons "ineligible for citizenship" from owning or leasing farmland. At that time, the right to become a naturalized citizen extended only to free white persons and to aliens of African nativity or descent. Every other race was "ineligible for citizenship." The "Alien Land Law," therefore, acted as a restriction based upon a racial classification without expressly naming the Japanese. (2)

In 1925, the Florida Legislature proposed a similar amendment also aimed at the Japanese. Although the proponent of the proposed amendment acknowledged that there was no immediate need for the measure, the amendment was intended to provide for the future contingency that Asian farmers, driven out of California by the property restrictions, would head to Florida. (3) The amendment was approved by Floridians in 1926 and later readopted during the 1968 revision of the Florida Constitution. (4)

No statute has ever been enacted implementing the Florida "Alien Land Law." Nor has any court--state or federal--examined whether it is constitutional under the federal or Florida Constitution. But the Alien Land Law implicates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it treats Asians differently based solely on race.

In 2008, a proposed amendment similar to this one was placed on the ballot by a resolution of the Florida Legislature in 2007 and received only 47.9 percent of votes for approval. The sponsor of the amendment speculated that it was defeated because voters mistakenly believed that it dealt with illegal aliens. This proposed revision has nothing to do with illegal...

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