Rarely does a federal policy have as direct a potentially positive impact on the South Fork as does one put in place earlier this year by President Obama to allow some children of undocumented migrants a way to avoid deportation and work here legally. Called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, it allows immigrants 30 and younger who have lived in the United States for five or more years to apply for a Social Security number and a two-year, renewable work permit.
So far, the number of people signing up has been less than expected; at least 1.2 million people could benefit, according to low estimates. Part of the less-than-expected enthusiasm has to do with the presidential election. Mitt Romney has said that he would “supersede” the program with one of his own. Other speculation is that some younger immigrants fear that sharing their personal information with authorities could lead to trouble for family members also here illegally. The government has gone to some lengths to dissuade that notion, insisting that personal details will remain private.
Critics have said that the executive order to create the Deferred Action program was a political stunt to shore up the president’s support among Latino voters. This may be true to a degree, but the program is still something that some South Fork residents should seriously consider taking advantage of. Law-abiding business owners could gain as well from the program, which would broaden the pool of available workers while reducing the headaches and legal risks of using illegal labor. Tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Bridgehampton National Bank in Bridgehampton, Congressman Tim Bishop is to host an informational meeting for those interested in applying.
In the end, deferred action is an inadequate substitute for a comprehensive and sensible national immigration reform, something President George W. Bush backed but for which he was vilified from the right. It is, however, a reasonable initial step.