Open Arms

On August 17, the Long Island Business published an editorial on a new government program for undocumented youth. The editorial appears here as part of a partnership with Long Island Wins.

On Wednesday, the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program officially began, allowing an estimated 1.7 million undocumented immigrant youth to apply for the right to live and work in the United States.

The program is aimed at immigrants ages 15 to 31 who came here before they were 16 and have lived here for at least the past five years. Other requirements: Applicants must have no serious criminal convictions, must be enrolled in or have completed high school, or have performed military service.

Applicants must provide a host of documents to prove continuous residency and must renew their status every two years.

Critics claim the program foists now-legal job applicants onto a saturated market. They also maintain it will be expensive to administer, although the $465 application fee is intended to cover that cost.

As far as we’re concerned, it’s about time. Beyond removing the pervasive fear of deportation, the measure solves an ongoing local problem: the flight of young people to more attractive/less expensive regions.

Many immigrants, on Long Island and elsewhere in our country, rely on the tight bonds of family to preserve their culture and cope with the stress of navigating a foreign land. Where young Long Islanders leave to seek the stimulation provided by downtowns, young immigrants will stay to complete their education, secure a job and help their families survive and prosper.

Long Island is in dire need of a next generation, whether that generation plays lacrosse or soccer, listens to rap or reggaeton, whether they drop their r’s or roll them.

We repeatedly hear that local businesses can’t find qualified talent locally. If that’s so, let’s broaden the applicant pool so Long Island companies have one more reason to stay here.