A to-do list for America's immigration czar

During the mid-1980s, I lived in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, as a U.S. foreign service officer. One way or another, I have been engaged with the border and Mexico ever since. Today, the largest migration crisis in my lifetime is unfolding on the U.S.-Mexico boundary. There is talk in Washington, D.C., about a czar to oversee interagency immigration policy. This is an urgent necessity.

Here is a suggested "to do" list for the appointee.


First, the czar should immediately ensure that the administration position on the principle of refugee non-refoulement (non-return) is properly aligned with U.S. interests. The international refugee regime is not a suicide pact. The United States may — indeed, must — derogate from it in a national emergency like the one unfolding now on our border with Mexico. The practical effect would be immediate return of unlawful entrants to Mexico.

Next, the czar ought to take a lesson from our nation's post-war experience with Vietnamese refugees and consider an "orderly departure" program for persons abroad who desire refugee or asylum status in the United States. The program should be hosted by (for example) international human rights champion Costa Rica or perhaps by Panama, where there happens to be a U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) regional office. On the day it begins operation, the program should immediately become the exclusive channel for asylum and refugee processing, for the duration of the national emergency, for any person not already physically present in the United States, whether that person is in Tijuana or Tierra del Fuego.


On the domestic front, the czar should encourage the executive branch to immediately suspend work authorization validity and processing across the board for all border violators, exempting only persons whose asylum applications have been finally approved after Article III judicial review. This enormous “magnet” to illegal entry must be neutralized.

Next, Chapter 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations should be amended to remove provisions concerning hiring that put border violators on an equal footing with American workers. In other words, "hiring American" must be decriminalized.

In addition, the executive branch should count Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Delayed Enforced Departure (DED) numbers (and similar programs) against the congressionally-fixed U.S. annual refugee admission quota. There has been nothing "temporary" or "delayed" about either of these back-door amnesty programs, and we can no longer afford to tolerate the fiction that there is.

Executive branch lawyers should also explore the president's taxing or banking authority to impose a federal fee on wire transfer remittances from the U.S. to targeted foreign destinations. The fee would be fully refundable upon the filing of a federal tax return. The states should be encouraged to enact similar fees; Oklahoma already has.

The executive branch should curtail or eliminate visa operations in migration-source countries whose populations flagrantly ignore U.S. entry requirements. Similar logic, in reverse, is used to open or close the door to a given country's participation in the Visa Waiver Program. Resource savings should be reprogrammed to immigration law enforcement in the U.S.

Next, the czar should work to obtain the removal of all border violators from e-Verify. In fact, most Americans — including members of Congress — would probably be shocked to learn that e-Verify does not screen border violators out of the system already. In fact, the system is blind to illegal entry, and that must change.

On the multilateral front, if the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration and the UNHCR do not engage usefully and immediately to help respond to the Western Hemisphere migration crisis, the executive branch should reprogram associated funding for both organizations to domestic immigration law enforcement efforts.

Several state governors have removed their National Guard assets from the southwest border to hamper executive branch attempts to control the migration emergency there. The czar should encourage our national government to federalize National Guard assets in those states and return them to the border as needed to deter narcotics and human trafficking. Sanctuary jurisdictions should also be considered for possible National Guard military police deployments to assist with detention of criminal aliens, where local law enforcement has been shut out by virtue-signaling state or local legislatures.


U.S. authorities should also be encouraged to step up enforcement in two other critical areas: U.S. employer sanctions for hiring border violators, and U.S. narcotics consumption. The cash streams flowing southward as a result of both of these activities dwarf bilateral U.S. aid, and have a direct role in creating the lethal chaos tearing Central America and Mexico apart today.

Richard Douglas ( was a U.S. consular officer in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for counter-narcotics from 2006-2009.