The Importance of ENDA and Immigration Reform

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As the 110th Congress came to a close in December 2010, the U.S. Senate narrowly failed to pass the DREAM Act on the very same day that it successfully repealed the U.S. military’s discriminatory policy—Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—that prohibited gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from serving openly in the armed forces. The failure of the DREAM Act, which would have created a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth, coupled with the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, fostered a pervasive narrative that Congress is unable to pass more than one piece of civil rights legislation per session.

Three years later, it is now the U.S. House of Representatives that may ration much-needed human rights advancements. The U.S. Senate has passed two critical pieces of legislation by overwhelming bipartisan margins since June 2013: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would ban discrimination against workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, more commonly referred to as immigration reform. But this progress has stalled in the House where neither ENDA nor any immigration bills have come to the floor for a vote. Republicans have proposed a number of piecemeal immigration bills in the House, and Democrats introduced H.R. 15—the House version of the Senate’s immigration reform bill with additional border security provisions that unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee. The bills introduced by House Republicans thus far do not include a path to legal status, though the Congressional Republicans release of the Republicans’ Principles on Immigration are a step in the right direction.

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