The Example of Julia Taft: Moving on to Enhance US Border Security

By John. A. Shaw

As I watch the Congressional diatribe against President Trump’s effort to make good on his electoral promises to ensure and enhance US border security, I ask myself how so many could get so much wrong over so little.

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War there was similar rancor on the Hill and a simmering hatred of Richard Nixon., The Senators and Congressmen of that era, however,  had personal experience of war and sufficient civic wisdom to largely ignore the politics of protest that have since debased our political discourse. Would be giants have been replaced by real dwarves, both culturally and intellectually.

Instead of the mindless semantic rant about illegals and effective barriers, the leaders of the earlier era looked for palliatives that would solve the refugee problems of the time, which were greater than the current one. Few of the inhabitants of Washington today would recognize the name of Julia Vadala Taft but that amazing woman transformed the refugee crises around the world for a generation.

Julia Ann Vadala Taft (July 27, 1942 – March 15, 2008) was a United States official who was involved in international humanitarian assistance, and who served as Director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance from 1986 to 1989, and as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration from 1997 to 2001.
With successive appointments by presidents of both parties, Julia Taft not only solved the refugee problems caused by war and natural disasters but took on the root catastrophes themselves.  After an apprenticeship under Eliot Richardson at HEW running the Cuban Refugee Program, President Ford appointed her in 1975 to head up The Interagency Task Force for Indo Chine Refugees to deal with the tens of thousands of refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.  She did this by setting up refugee camps in Thailand, a neutral neighbor, run by the United Nations.

It proved a wild success and could be applied in Mexico today the same way. It is reported to be under consideration by the UN right now, but it would require an entente between President Trump and Mexican President Lobez-Obrador to make such camps a reality.

Julia Taft died about ten years ago but I thought at the time how much better she would have been on a presidential ticket than Hilary Clinton. Her legacy was storied and unlike Hilary Clintons’, was genuine. May she become an inspiration for the swift solution of the US-Mexican border crisis.

Very few people realize that Lopez-Obrador ran last year on an anti- immigrant platform and should be an ideal partner for the US in stemming the scourge of illegals that is flooding both countries. Money earmarked for Central America by the Congress might even be funneled through Mexico to build a southern border fence so that the contentious one to the north would not be needed.

May President Trump have someone around him who can regenerate Julia Taft’s vision for the country: She would say stop the debate and just do it!  Fund it with US money at the UN.

John. A. Shaw interacted with Julia Taft for over 40 years from senior positions at the White House to the State and Defense departments.