While the recent crisis in Haiti has spurred many Americans to action -- through donations, public service, humanitarian aid, etc. -- it has also precipitated a reckoning with current domestic policy, particularly immigration. Last Friday, at the urging of Democratic and Republican members of Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and numerous faith and sectarian organizations, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano granted Temporary Protected Status to all Haitian immigrants currently residing in the United States.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a humanitarian tool used in extenuating circumstances when the situation in immigrants' home country is such that returning them to that nation would be inhumane. Those given TPS are allowed to remain in the U.S. for a defined period of time (between 6 and 18 months) and work. The decision of the Obama Administration to grant TPS for undocumented Haitian immigrants reflects the great extent of the devastation in Haiti and the urgency of a humanitarian response both on the island and here at home.
Though we are pleased by Secretary Napolitano's swift action on TPS, these 30,000 Haitian immigrants are just a fraction of the more than 12 million undocumented individuals residing within our borders who must be drawn out of the shadows. We must pursue a humane immigration policy for all that protects our borders, promotes family unity, and creates a path to citizenship for those already contributing to our country.
Immigration advocates are gearing up for reform we can believe in. During the holiday season, the faith community launched Breaking Bread with America's Families: Setting the Table for Immigration Reform. Participants in the noon-time picnic rally and vigil can join with others from around the country in demanding just immigration policy. Those who wish can stay to lobby their senators and representative for comprehensive immigration legislation.
Come break bread with your neighbors on March 22nd and demand a just, secure, and humane immigration policy. To learn more and sign up for the picnic rally and lobbying, please visit www.breakingbreadwithfamilies.org.
Juliana Schnur is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She is a graduate of New York University.