The Center for Equality and Social Justice (CESJ) at the University of Kentucky released two policy briefs last week promoting continued protections for DACA recipients and for amending nondiscrimination laws in Kentucky to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Started last year, the center exists “to better understand social inequality” and “to empower scholars, students and the community to advocate for greater social justice,” according to its website.
The center reflects the growing entrenchment of progressive ideas in the academic world, even in red states.
Economics professor Jenny Minier (pictured above, left) wrote a position paper titled “Immigrants Benefit the Community and Economy,” in which she offers moral and economic reasons for Congress to allow young people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to stay legally in the U.S.
The DACA program was started by former President Obama with an executive order and granted young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children a chance to temporarily live and work in the U.S. if they met certain criteria. President Trump has ended the program but given Congress a chance to act. Nearly 800,000 people have been granted DACA status since it began in 2012, and there are currently around 690,000 with DACA status. Recipients are sometimes called “Dreamers.”
“National security and employment are definitely important concerns, but broad restrictions on immigration are not an effective way of addressing them,” Minier concluded in her position paper. “An Iranian doctor practicing in Whitesburg is unlikely to have terrorist intent, and a Guatemalan hired to work at Churchill Downs after weeks of local ads went unanswered is unlikely to be taking a job from an American. A Dreamer who has grown up in the U.S. and is currently enrolled in college here is a great asset to our country, not a priority for deportation. Any immigration reform must recognize the many ways in which immigrants enhance the American economy, and must allow them to continue to do so.”
Ellen Riggle (pictured above, right), who teaches in the political science and gender and women’s studies departments, wrote a position paper titled “Need for Non-Discrimination Laws Protecting LGBT People in Kentucky.” Riggle’s teaching and research fields include “LGBT studies and queer theory, legal and policy studies, political psychology, and qualitative and feminist methodology,” according to her faculty bio.
Riggle noted in her position paper that the Kentucky Civil Rights Act does not include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity with respect to state employees, but it could be rescinded by a governor at any time and does not include non-state workers. Seven local jurisdictions include sexual orientation and gender identity in protections covering employment, housing and public accommodations, but “local non-discrimination ordinances have limited enforceability,” Riggle wrote.
In May, a Kentucky appeals court ruled in favor of a Lexington print shop owner who refused to make gay pride t-shirts because the message conflicted with his Christian beliefs. An LGBT group had accused the print shop owner of violating a local fairness ordinance.