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SCOTUS leaves Florida's research travel ban to 'terrorist' nations intact

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left intact a controversial Florida law that restricts researchers at state colleges and universities from traveling to Cuba and other “terrorist states,” despite indications last year that the court would consider a review.

Amid the flurry of rulings from the high court on Monday was a denial of certiorari on Florida’s “Travel to Terrorist States Act.” The action effectively lets stand a lower court ruling upholding the 2006 law that bars public schools and universities from using state money for travel to countries such as Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria and other nations considered “sponsors of terrorism.”

The court decision deals a “devastating blow” to Florida universities, said Howard Simon of the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union which challenged the law, along with faculty at Florida International University, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida. He predicted it will lead to an exodus of faculty and research dollars from Florida schools.

“The research is not going to end. It will just be done by universities elsewhere outside of Florida,’’ Simon said. “It will keep us in an enforced state of ignorance.”

U.S. Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican who sponsored the law when he was in the state Legislature, commended the court ‘s action Monday, saying it was “a victory for Florida taxpayers” who “do not want their money or publicly-funded resources to be utilized for travel to terrorist nations, or to enrich terrorist regimes.”

Simon, however, said the premise of the law is flawed, saying the research doesn’t aid the terrorist countries but helps the U.S.

“It’s not a giveaway to Cuba if we study the country’s economy, weather patterns and political conditions,’’ he said. “We benefit by knowing more. We don’t benefit by forced ignorance.”

The law was first ruled unconstitutional in 2008 by U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz who declared it “an impermissible sanction” that served “as an obstacle to the objectives of the federal government.”

The ruling was appealed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist and former Attorney General Bill McCollum and the lower court ruling was overturned.

The appeals court found that Florida's "traditional state interest in managing its own spending and the scope of its academic programs was sufficient to overcome some indistinct desire on the part of the executive branch or Congress to encourage generally academic travel."

In March 2011, the ACLU and university professors asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case and the high court asked the U.S. Department of Justice to prepare a brief on the issue but the justices chose not to call for a hearing on the case, ending the appeal.


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Damon Marquedt

One more reason not to move back to FL -- restricting freedoms of Americans is not encouraging...


Here's hoping that dirtbag Rivera gets kicked out of office this year. The only thing that punk ever focuses on is restricting travel and trade with Cuba.

Stan Squires

I am from vancouver,canada and i wanted to say:Shame on the U.S. Supreme Court for upholding the Travel to Terrorist States Act with regard to students and teachers and university personal travelling to Cuba.This is an unjust,reactionary,hypocritical law that belongs to the era of feudalism.It is unbelieveable that citizens of the USA have to put up with so many restrictions of their rights.
No wonder other countries got such an hatred for the U.S.gov.I got no sympathy for U.S.gov.personal been killed in other countries.The gets what they deserves.The USA has had two revolutions in the past.It is time for another one.

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