The Nov. 20 announcement of President Barack Obama’s administrative relief program on immigration puts Long Island at a turning point with the potential to have lasting, positive benefits for all Long Islanders. That couldn’t have been any clearer than on Feb. 26, when Long Island Wins co-hosted a summit on immigration with Hofstra University’s Center for Civic Engagement called Long Island at a Turning Point—It’s Everyone’s Opportunity.
Immigration is a topic that affects all Long Islanders. The summit was an opportunity to engage in thoughtful conversation about the role that immigration and immigrants can and should play in building a prosperous, growing, 21st-century America.
More than 400 people turned out to discuss immigration, share ideas, and develop action steps as a way forward to ensure that Long Island is an inclusive community that works for all Long Islanders—immigrant and non-immigrant alike.
Administrative relief will change the lives of tens of thousands of Long Island immigrants, providing opportunities to come forward and more fully engage in the communities in which they have lived for years. And making administrative relief work for everyone is key to the success of our region.
“Long Island has been an epicenter of change throughout its history,” noted Michael Dowling, president and CEO of North Shore-LIJ Health System, during his keynote speech at the kickoff breakfast. “Imagine what it was pre-World War II and look at what happened after. We were the first to implement lots of things, like suburbia. And we can be the first to make Long Island a special place, a place of inclusiveness, and coherence, as we go forward dealing with the continuing changes demographically that are occurring.”
Dowling, who emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland when he was 17 years old, went on to speak firsthand about the vital role that immigrants play in our communities, their struggle to fit in and how their values so closely mirror our own.
At the core of administrative relief are two programs—Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA), which was implemented in 2012 and expanded under the November announcement; and the newly created Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Residents (DAPA) initiative.
Both programs offer undocumented immigrants a chance to live and work like every American. That means the ability to work legally while paying taxes, obtain a driver’s license, own a car and much more. This results in three key benefits to all of Long Island.
1. Economic Opportunities—Immigrants have played an incredibly valuable role in our economy from our nation’s beginning. Under the President’s administrative relief program, DACA and DAPA recipients will be able to work legally and apply for better jobs that match their skills, which will increase their earnings along with their spending power. This additional spendable income will cycle back into the local economy, creating more jobs and new opportunities for economic expansion. This new workforce will positively impact the wages and employment opportunities of native-born workers across our economy.
2.Safer Communities—Administrative relief will provide a valid form of identification for those who are eligible and will be a temporary protection from deportation. This makes the entire community safer as it will encourage immigrants who have been a victim of a crime or who witness a crime to come forward and report it to police without fear of deportation. We are all safer when law enforcement can effectively protect and serve all members of our community.
3. American Family Values—Strong families make strong communities. Keeping families together—families who have lived in our communities for years and have established roots here — by protecting them from deportation strengthens our neighborhoods and aligns with our values as Americans.
These benefits, and the strategies for how to maximize them throughout Long Island’s communities, were the focus of the breakout sessions at the summit. Each session covered an important aspect of immigration—education, healthcare, immigration law, media, economy, government and community organizing.
The goal of each session was to develop action steps that will be incorporated into a post-summit strategy. We plan to develop working groups for each session to follow up on the action steps and continue the dialog.
This is the beginning of an important turning point for Long Island. Immigration has long been a cornerstone of our history, our economy and our culture. As we cross this turning point, Long Island has the chance to serve as an example to the rest of the country on how to embrace our immigrant neighbors and create inclusive and welcoming communities that work for everyone.
As Dowling mentioned at the end of his keynote speech, when all immigrants who yearn for the American dream, who strive to live and work like all Long Islanders, when they have a chance to stay here and pursue that dream to its fullest, “Long Island wins.”
There’s much more to come on this. Visit our website (www.longislandwins.com) and be sure to sign up for our e-newsletter for more information and updates on our summit, the follow-up working groups, administrative relief and all things immigration.
Maryann Sinclair Slutsky is the executive director of Long Island Wins, a communications organization promoting commonsense immigration policy solutions.