The Mast-Head: Unheeded Warnings

When Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals began, some immigrant advocates and lawyers warned against participation.

Among the mountain of depressing news surrounding President Trump’s decision to end the program that protected from deportation some 800,000 young people brought illegally as children to this country was the observation in The New York Times that when Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals began, some immigrant advocates and lawyers warned against participation.

Registration was key to DACA. Applicants had to provide details about who they were, when they arrived in the United States, and where they lived in order to sign up. They were told their information would be secure and never used to start deportation proceedings. That was not good enough for some advocates, who cautioned that the government could not be trusted to honor that pledge. 

According to estimates from immigration policy groups, Suffolk County had about 7,000 DACA-eligible residents, the majority from Mexico, but also large numbers from China, Guatemala, Ecuador, and the Caribbean. In East Hampton, where the resort and second-home economy squarely rests on the shoulders of immigrants, the implication of the president’s crackdown, if allowed to take place in the absence of new and rational congressional action, is alarming. What would happen in an already difficult employment picture if this young, smart, and ambitious portion of the population disappeared is terrible to contemplate.

There is a ray of hope in the response by New York State officials, among others, who have vowed to sue to block the federal government from using the information provided by DACA applicants against them. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has not said what it will do if and when the president’s six-month deadline passes without action from Congress, but the risk that it might tap people’s private data and use it against them remains a terrifying, un-American possibility.