Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a run for the oval office after months of speculation and rumors, leaving students divided in the wake – with some hoping for his victory and others going against it.
Taking place in a virtual Twitter livestream hosted by entrepreneur and Tesla founder Elon Musk, DeSantis made the announcement on May 23. The governor now stands to face five other candidates in the Republican primary, including former president Donald Trump.
When she found out DeSantis had announced his run for the 2024 presidential election, international student Shaikh Raisa Afreen said she was scared of what lies in her future.
“We know very well that he is not very lenient with diversity coming in over here. That’s maybe understandable. Maybe that’s good for the Americans. But for us, that’s scary. Because I’m an international student,” she said.
Afreen, who is a junior computer science major from Bangladesh, said international students like herself come to the U.S. for a better life, but now she feels as though her future is uncertain. She said she is already concerned about finding a job to stay in the country, and DeSantis’ announcement now poses an additional worry.
“I have a brother who’s going to be an international student. So I’m scared,” she said. “What if we get into problems? What if he limits our possibilities?”
Part of Afreen’s worry comes from DeSantis’ diversity initiatives, she said. DeSantis endorsed laws such as the recently passed Senate Bill (S.B.) 266, which placed limits on an institution’s ability to expend funds on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and targeted theories dealing with systemic racism, sexism and oppression.
For others, the governor’s initiatives concerning schools’ curriculum and DEI is a benefit. Sophomore nursing student Lilia Peacey said she agrees with the initiatives to push back against the “woke” topics.
These initiatives are also needed beyond the Florida state level, according to Peacey. They need to be in place in red and blue states alike and there needs to be more conversation on the topic, she said.
“I’m not saying these people shouldn’t have a right to exist and live how they would like. And that’s great. I just think that we need to draw the line somewhere when it comes to what’s fair and what’s not,” Peacey said.
Specifically, Peacey said she was concerned about the contents of children’s books – such as inappropriate LGBT-related topics – and “drag kindergarten shows.” The governor released a list of these books including Gender Queer: A Memoir by author Maia Kobabe – “an explicit, pornographic book showing sex acts,” according to the governor’s website.
As a Canadian immigrant herself, Peacey said she appreciates the governor’s approach to immigration. In particular, she said she liked DeSantis’ handling of the migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard.
Back in September 2022, DeSantis flew around 50 migrants – mostly Venezuelan migrants – from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, according to a Sept. 15 NPR article. The governor did this as a way to take a stand against other cities which he claimed had been incentivizing illegal immigration by not enforcing immigration laws, according to NPR.
Peacey, who recently became a citizen herself this past August, said the event is an example of DeSantis’ attempts to make who can come into the country fair.
“Personally, I’m an immigrant. I moved to the [U.S.] about… I’m gonna say nine years ago. It’ll be 10 [years] this November. So, I feel like I kind of have a place to talk about it. I think he’s done a great job in making it fair for everyone,” she said.
Sophomore political science major Juan Echeverry said although he is skeptical of DeSantis’ immigration policies, he hopes the governor emerges victorious in the 2024 presidential election.
“I’m not gonna say I agree 100% with the stuff that he’s done, but I think overwhelmingly, he has shown to be competent,” he said.
The country needs someone who fulfills the promises they make, according to Echeverry. Calling attention to the initiatives focusing on parental rights and critical race theory, Echeverry said DeSantis has come through on his promises.
The governor’s handling of the COVID-19 lockdown is also an example of his ability to fulfill promises, according to Echeverry. He said DeSantis kept his commitment to keep Florida open “whenever the science showed that the lockdowns were not really helping [and] they weren’t having a significant effect.”
DeSantis started the process to remove COVID-19 policies in September 2020 by removing restrictions on businesses in the state, according to a Sept. 25 NPR article. He also eased mask restrictions and the penalties associated with not wearing a mask.
“The fact that DeSantis has done it here, at the state level, could be an indicator that he’s going to do it on the national level,” Echeverry said.
Junior integrated public relations and advertising major Emma Sievert said DeSantis’ fulfillment of his promises is one of the reasons she would not like to see him in office. She said the policies endorsed by DeSantis on the state level have already begun to see an effect, such as fueling more “hatred” against minority communities.
“Obviously, people are gonna listen to [DeSantis], the ones that like him at least, and then they go out of their way to go and harass people that are transgender [or] minorities of any kind,” she said.
DeSantis is also a qualified candidate, according to Peacey, which is one of the reasons she’d like to see him in the presidential office. DeSantis served in the U.S. Navy, as a prosecutor in Florida and was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 prior to his tenure as governor in the state.
“If he were to win, I think that would be great for the country. I think that he acts on what he says. He’s all bite [and] all bark and so it’s not just one or the other,” she said. “I think that he would be a pretty good fit for turning this country into something great.”
Sievert said even those who aren’t always in the know of politics – including herself – still understand that DeSantis’ actions and policies are wrong.
“I don’t consider myself as the most political person in the sense of like… I’m not always in the know about every single thing, but I do have the news on and that just shows that you can be very uneducated when it comes to politics, but still understand what he’s doing is wrong. It really just comes from your heart,” she said.
If DeSantis were to be elected, Sievert said the hatred already growing within Florida will spread more.
“I don’t like the way he runs Florida. I don’t agree with any of his morals. And I feel like it’s just gonna feed more hatred into, not just Florida anymore, but now the entire country,” she said.
Echeverry said he is happy DeSantis has criticized Trump. The 44-year-old governor would be a step up from both sitting president Joe Biden and Trump – who are both over the age of 75 – as he represents “new blood,” according to Echeverry.
“I’m just happy somebody on the Republican side has gone on the offensive against Trump because we deserve better… The country deserves better than Donald Trump and Joe Biden. We need young leadership, moral leadership,” he said.