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Stephen Miller, the former Jeff Sessions staffer and current Trump policy advisor who was the lead author of the immigration and Muslim/refugee ban executive orders, made the rounds on Sunday talk shows yesterday. His appearances were widely-panned, The Washington Post assigned “bushels of Pinocchios” for Miller’s falsehoods, and it was painfully clear that Miller is neither ready for prime time or qualified for the powerful role he currently occupies.
A new Univision profile highlights how Miller’s nativist and anti-Latino sentiments were evident back when he was a California teenager. The Univision story, titled “How White House advisor Stephen Miller went from pestering Hispanic students to designing Trump’s immigration policy,” is a disturbing reminder that Miller is now in a position to act on his hostility toward Latinos.
The Univision story is available in full online here, with key excerpts below:
“Stephen Miller and Jason Islas grew up in sunny southern California in the late 1990s, united by their passion for Star Trek. But Miller stopped talking to his friend as they prepared to jump from Lincoln Middle School to Santa Monica High School. Miller only returned Islas’ phone calls at the end of the summer, to coldly explain the reason for his estrangement. ‘I can’t be your friend any more because you are Latino,’ Islas remembers him saying.
Islas recalled that Miller mentioned other reasons, which he considered ‘childish.’ But that was his first sign of the change Miller would undergo when he was 14 years old: a political radicalization that defines his life even now as a senior White House adviser with direct access to President Donald Trump.
Miller, now 31, and Stephen Bannon, former executive director of the populist Breitbart website, have been described as the main architects of Trump’s immigration policies. Several reports identified Miller as the brains behind the controversial executive order that temporarily banned people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. With Bannon, he also wrote Trump’s aggressively nationalist inauguration speech and in July wrote a draft of Trump’s acceptance speech to the Republican presidential nominating convention.
…Univision Noticias spoke with several classmates who said Miller had few friends, none of them non-white. They said he used to make fun of the children of Latino and Asian immigrants who did not speak English well. Early on, Miller began to write opinion columns in conservative blogs, the local press and the high school’s own newspaper, The Samohi. He also contributed at times to the national radio show of Larry Elder, a conservative African American, and once invited him to speak at the school. Displaying his hostility toward minorities, Miller complained to school administrators about announcements in Spanish and festivals that celebrated diversity. In his third year at the school, the 16-year-old Miller wrote a letter to The Lookout, a local publication, about his negative impression of Hispanic students and the use of Spanish in the United States.
‘When I entered Santa Monica High School in ninth grade, I noticed a number of students lacked basic English skills. There are usually very few, if any, Hispanic students in my honors classes, despite the large number of Hispanic students that attend our school,’ Miller wrote.
‘Even so, pursuant to district policy, all announcements are written in both Spanish and English. By providing a crutch now, we are preventing Spanish speakers from standing on their own,’ he added. ‘As politically correct as this may be, it demeans the immigrant population as incompetent, and makes a mockery of the American ideal of personal accomplishment.’ In that article, Miller also complained about his school’s celebration of Cinco de Mayo, the existence of a gay club and a visit by a Muslim leader.
…Natalie Flores, another student who witnessed Miller’s evolution from middle to high school, said he displayed ‘an intense hatred toward people of color, especially toward Latinos.’ She and other students interviewed for this report recalled that Miller became angry whenever he heard students speaking Spanish in the hallways. ‘I think his big problem was the Latinos. He thought they lived off welfare,’ said Flores, now enrolled at the Teachers College in Columbia University.
…Rosmarin also recalled a Miller speech during a campaign for student council elections in which he attacked the requirement that students put their trash in garbage bins, saying that janitors were paid to do that. Some of the students who knew Miller in high school said he had no interests other than radical politics, and that he always seemed unhappy. ‘He had a lot of grudges. He didn’t go out of his way to go to dances or to have girlfriends,’ de la Torre said. ‘I don’t remember ever seeing him smile.’
…Miller graduated from Santa Monica High in 2003 and enrolled in Duke University to study political science. He continued pushing his ideals in the student newspaper and conservative media. He also was seen as associated to radicals like Richard Spencer, creator of the term Alt-Right (although Miller has distanced himself from Spencer), anti-immigration activist David Horowitz and white nationalist Jared Taylor.
…Some of Miller’s fellow high school students now say they are alarmed by the power he seems to wield. ‘He is very dangerous,’ said Islas. ‘One thing is a kid who makes inappropriate comments in the high school newspaper, and another is letting him write presidential orders’
And they say they recognize Miller’s voice when they listen to Trump speeches. Rosmarin said that re-reading Miller’s writings in high school gave him an eerie feeling. ‘It’s like you’re reading Trump’s words, written by a 16-year-old kid from California,’ he said.
Cynthia Santiago, today an immigration lawyer, said she was disheartened that Miller is now directly affecting the lives of some of her clients. ‘A few days ago I spent a weekend at the Los Angeles airport volunteering to assist immigrants arriving from countries on the (Trump) executive order,’ she said. ‘It upsets me that we were in the same school.’”