The Employment Non-discrimination Act Is Seriously Flawed | Nancy Goldstein | Comment Is Free |

Moreover, about half of those green cards are actually claimed by spouses and children of applicants, not the super-skilled workers our economy craves. [ See a collection of political cartoons on immigration. ] Our immigration policies are so retrograde that we offer the same number of employment-based green cards today that we did in 1990 the year the internet was invented (with a great degree of help from high-skilled immigrants, incidentally). To complicate matters further, the U.S. immigration system also discriminates against exceptional workers from certain countries. In other words, if your intern was from Iceland, there would be no waiting period for a green card; if she was from China, you’ll wait more than half a decade . That’s because current law establishes hard country caps to prohibit citizens of any one country from claiming more than 9,800 employment-based visas whether that country is the size of India ( 1.2 billion population ) or Iceland ( 315,000 ). What’s most stunning is that many of these high-skilled immigrants already live here, and then we force them to leave. Our world class colleges and universities attracted more than 225,000 new international students in 2011-12, and that number is increasing every year. Many earn advanced degrees in fields that create jobs and wealth, such as engineering, computer science and advanced mathematics. But after graduation, we force them to return home. There is only one winner when our immigration system prevents a business owner from hiring that ideal employee after graduation the country who puts the student we educated to work for itseconomy. For the last five years, Congress has sought to reform our immigration system in fits and starts.

(It cleared a key test vote Monday night, 61 to 30, with the support of every member of the Democratic caucus and some Republicans .) Even the Wall Street Journal, which has never been accused of being an organ for the liberal media, ran an opinion piece by Apple CEO Tim Cook on how equality benefits the workplace. But on closer inspection, neither Cook’s support nor the Senate’s is quite what it seems. First, a quick primer on Enda, which has been languishing in Congress since 1994, despite the fact that even polls taken that year showed 62% of Americans support passage of laws to protect “homosexuals” from job discrimination. As Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT organization Freedom to Work, points out: One of our biggest Enda hurdles is the fact that 90% of Americans mistakenly believe Enda has already become law. But the fact is that as of now only 17 states and the District of Columbia have statutes that protect against both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment in public and private sectors. To put that another way, we’re now living in a country where it’s legal to marry your same-sex partner in 14 states and enjoy federal benefits, but that you can still be fired for having your spouse’s picture on your desk in 33 . There are a number of reasons why Enda has become a priority for the Senate now. These include the fact that there’s little political risk in supporting LGBT civil rights in a post-don’t ask don’t tell and post-defense of marriage act America, but a great deal to gain from it. LGBT Americans were key to Democratic victories including the presidential election, in 2008 and 2012, as both voters and donors. Polls increasingly show that young voters of both parties overwhelmingly support full LGBT civil rights. In short, it’s a winner and a wedge issue. It’s also not going to pass. House majority leader John Boehner has made his opposition clear . And frankly, that may not be the worst possible scenario. Because there are real reasons to be less than thrilled with this particular version of Enda. Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL , explained: In addition to the exemptions included in other civil rights legislation, Enda goes far beyond them to offer ‘religious immunity’ to religiously affiliated institutions like schools, hospitals, and universities. So the passage of Enda would mean that, though it is illegal for a Baptist university to discriminate against a female professor or for a Catholic hospital to discriminate against a Jewish janitor, discrimination against LGBT folks is completely OK. Dorothy Samuels of the New York Times adds : Does anyone really think there should be a religious defense to firing a transgender doctor when a private hospital merges with one affiliated with a religious group? If President Obama is as committed to ending discrimination in the workplace as he purports to be , there’s plenty more he can do all on his own, without Congress, and while knowing that he has the support of the majority of the American public. He could pick up a pen and sign the executive order he’s refused to sign since April 2011 , despite a 2008 campaign promise. It would ban federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity, thereby protecting approximately 26 million people, or nearly 22% of the total civilian workforce. Of course, Democrats aren’t the only ones using Enda to polish their own apple. Apple’s Wall Street Journal op-ed also exhibits a certain amount of sound and fury just ahead of the release of the Human Rights Campaign’s release of their annual report on which American corporations have the best record on protecting LGBT employees. Also at a time when Apple and other Olympic sponsors are under heavy pressure to take a stand against LGBT discrimination in Russia ahead of the 2014 Sochi games. Strangely enough for a corporation that’s so proud of its non-discrimination policies, I needed to turn to Apple’s press people to find where it appears buried deep within their site in their Business Conduct Policy document. There, said policy is briefly mentioned in one short paragraph on page 5, under “Harassment and Discrimination” alongside every other protected category. When I asked whether Apple’s western non-discrimination policies hold true for its employees and customers in Russia, I received a short, terse answer that the policies applied everywhere. Despite asking twice for a link to where the policy appears in Russian on the Russian site , I received none. My Russian-speaking friends also searched the site for a mention of the policy, unsuccessfully.


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