Opponents of bill express concerns

Middle Eastern students on financial aid may have to find other ways to fund their education if a bill is passed in the State House of Representatives.

More than 822 foreign students on financial aid will be affected if House Bill 31 passes, which proposes to cut financial assistance in the form of scholarships, fellowships, grants, loans, and tuition fee waivers to students from the States Department list of designated countries that support terrorism.

The bill passed at the Education K-20 meeting on Monday. If HB 31 passes in the House, students from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, North Korea and Sudan will stop receiving federal funding on July 1.

Students from Cuba were excluded under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1956.

At the meeting, some agreed that state funding should not be allocated toward these specific students, others say it is a contradiction.

“If you want to cut foreign aid for financial reasons cut it, but not because of terrorism,” Rep. Heather Fiorentino said. “If this bill was to do background checks that would make sense, but the sate of Florida has decided to fight the people along with the country.”

“No one has a born right to financial aid,” said Rep. Dick Kravitz.

HB 31 was drawn up on March 24 by the Subcommittee on Higher Education and an estimated $308,717 was spent on foreign students from the list of designated countries. If the bill passes, the money saved would be used for Bright Futures Scholarships.

Rep. Curtis Richardson said the bill could bring weakened institutions, bad international relations and ethnic discrimination.

“These students are working and teaching,” Rep. Curtis Richardson said . “If this bill passes it hurts our universities.”

Richardson said the bill might increase tension between the six countries instead of encouraging them to become a part of the democratic process.

“This bill does not address what kind of people come to the U.S.,” said Mark Shlackman, program director of the Center for the Advancement of Civil Rights at Florida State University.

“That is federal government territory that should be left up to Homeland Security.”

Other representatives and opponents of the bill said the bill was discriminated against students of Middle Eastern descent.

“The bill is discriminatory,” said Hadia Mubarek, president of the Muslim Student Association at FSU whose family members from Syria were recipients of financial aid. “It’s not discriminating regimes, it’s discriminating students who want to learn.”

“It suggests if you’re born in Syria or Iraq, you are more likely to be a terrorist.”

Crystyn Wright can be reached at akaanke@hotmail.com.