In Florida, an Initiative Intended to End Bias Is Killed

MIAMI — An obscure ballot initiative in Florida intended to end a legacy of bias against Asian-Americans was defeated Tuesday, apparently because voters incorrectly assumed it would prevent illegal immigrants from owning property.

Had it passed, the initiative, known as Amendment No. 1, would have removed from the state’s Constitution language adopted in 1926 allowing the Legislature to prohibit foreigners who were barred from citizenship — Asian-Americans at the time — from owning land.

No such legislation was ever enacted here, and every other state that had such laws has scrapped them on grounds of equal protection. But on Tuesday, Florida’s effort to delete the provision went down, with 52 percent voting “no” and 48 percent voting “yes.”

Immigrant advocates said they were stunned.

“It’s terribly disappointing,” said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. “At a time when our country has turned away from a history of racism, we have left a racist and anti-immigrant provision in Florida’s Constitution.”

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