Florida's international students are angry about a bill at the state capitol that would strip financial aid from citizens of countries that support terrorism. The list includes students from Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, and Cuba.
Opponents argue the bills punish people who could turn out to be the best ambassadors for change.
The bill does not prevent students from the seven countries on the list from attending Florida universities; it just prevents the state from providing financial aid. An amendment to the bill would remove Cuba from the list of countries whose students couldn't receive aid.
Hadia Mubarak is President of the Muslim Student Association at Florida State University. She's furious about a proposed bill that would cut off state support for students from seven countries accused of sponsoring terror, including Iraq.
Mubarak believes one of the best ways to fight extremism is by educating people in America, about America. And when they return home, if they return home, they become ambassadors of American values and American democracy.
But several lawmakers don't think Florida taxpayers should be footing the bill for students from countries that support terrorism
Last year the state spent nearly $400,000 providing financial aid to about 650 students from countries including Libya and North Korea.
Dennis Baxley is a co-sponsor of the bill to cut off that aid.
“Why are we funding these students? In tight financial times, why aren't we taking care of our own students instead of funding foreign students from these countries?” Baxley argues.
But international students often play key roles in research and as teaching assistants. Roberta Christie at the FSU International Center says welcoming people from diverse backgrounds is what higher education is all about.
“We are an open society, we value people because they're individuals, not because of the citizenship they happen to have,” Christie explains.
The bill first surfaced after Sept. 11, but couldn't find enough support. The war with Iraq will likely provide more momentum this year. The bill does not prevent students from the seven countries on the list from attending Florida universities; it just prevents the state from providing financial aid. An amendment to the bill would remove Cuba from the list of countries whose students couldn't receive aid.