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Immigration 101: Who is Stephen Miller?


Who is Stephen Miller? To understand what role senior policy adviser Stephen Miller has in the White House these days, look no further than Donald Trump’s new immigration framework, which includes legislation that would protect Dreamers — at the cost of worse outcomes for almost every other major immigrant group in the U.S. 

This proposal has surely passed by the desk of Miller, a right-wing extremist who is as anti-immigrant as they come, and it was Miller who briefed reporters and Hill staffers on his handiwork. The White House framework contains far too many plans restricting immigration to be acceptable. Stephen Miller is not a negotiator or someone interested in governing – he’s a white supremacist ideologue whose entire life and career has been dedicated to extremist policies. He’s learned some of that extremism from working alongside the likes of former Breitbart head Steve Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a man who was once deemed too hateful to become a federal judge.

Stephen Miller: the early years

As profiles of him have noted, Stephen Miller has basically been a lifelong unpleasant person whose zeal against people of color has yet to be explained. He grew up in southern California, where as early as middle school, he reportedly stopped hanging out with a childhood friend because the friend was Latino. By high school, he was a right-winger spoke on conservative talk shows and ran for class president on a platform of attacking janitors: “Am I the only one who is sick and tired of being told to pick up my trash when we have plenty of janitors who are paid to do it for us?”

Miller went to Duke for college (“presumably because he thought it was founded by David,” as TV host Samantha Bee said), where he became friends with the neo-Nazi Richard Spencer and wrote a regular newspaper column where he regularly railed against feminism, multiculturalism, and immigration.

After college, he became a staffer for then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), himself one of the most extremist and anti-immigrant members of Congress. Sessions once reportedly called a black official in his office “boy” and told him to be careful what he said to white people; in the ‘80s, Sessions was nominated for a federal judgeship but was blocked by the Senate because of his abhorrently racist views. In the Senate, Sessions had close relationships with anti-immigrant hate groups such as the Center for Immigration Studies and Federation for American Immigration Reform; Stephen Miller certainly interacted (and likely continues to interact) with these groups as well.

Stephen Miller and Trump: On the campaign and in the White House

In January 2016, Miller joined the Trump campaign, and then became a White House staffer when Trump won the election and was inaugurated. During the campaign, Miller served as an anti-immigrant warm up act for Trump. Since Miller got into the White House, he’s been part of a nativist, ethno-centric attempt to change U.S. demographics for the long run. And, his old college pal, Spencer, was really happy to have him in that role, stating, “Could Miller and Trump do good things for white Americans? The answer is yes.” 

Shortly before Trump’s inauguration — Miller wrote the infamously dark speech — Spencer spoke to The Daily Beast about his ties to Miller:

Richard Spencer, a leading white nationalist, said the two became acquainted while they were both at Duke, adding that he was a “mentor” to the younger student.

“I spent a lot of time with him at Duke… I hope I expanded his thinking… but I think he probably would be where he is today without me as well,” Spencer said, adding that he felt Miller was a “highly competent person, and a brave person.”

Spencer has since coined the term “alt-right” to describe his movement of racial discontentment. While they were friends, they did not see eye to eye on race, Spencer claims.

“I think [Miller] is an American nationalist, but that doesn’t mean he is a racial nationalist… I do not think he is a white nationalist,” Spencer said. “Stephen Miller would never be alt-right at the time, or probably now too.”

However, Spencer, who was a history graduate student while Miller was an undergraduate, said that the two of them had worked to bring white-nationalist writer Peter Brimelow to campus together, something first reported by Mother Jones.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Brimelow, who Miller and Spencer brought to Duke, is:

a leading anti-immigration activist and author of the bestselling anti-immigrant tome Alien Nation, is the president of the VDARE Foundation, a nonprofit that warns against the polluting of America by non-whites, Catholics, and Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Miller, Bannon (before he was ousted), Sessions – along with chief of staff John Kelly and Congressional hardliners like Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) – want America to be white again, and that means implementing policies that keep new immigrants out while expelling those already here. This includes:

  • Deporting mothers and fathers who have lived in the U.S. for decades, who have U.S. citizen children, and who have committed no crimes
  • Cancelling temporary protected status (TPS) for the hundreds of thousands of immigrant-Americans that the program protects
  • Implementing a Muslim ban (which Stephen Miller wrote)
  • Drastically reducing the number of refugees admitted by the United states
  • Turning away asylum-seekers at the border, even women and children fleeing violence
  • Eliminating the diversity visa
  • Changing “legal” immigration routes like family migration so that visas for family members are slashed in half

And of course, last year, the Trump Administration ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which currently protects almost 800,000 Dreamers (who have lived in the U.S. for almost their entire lives) from deportation and allows them to legally work. Originally, Trump gave no indications that he was in a hurry to end DACA. But he did in September 2017 after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatened to sue the Trump Administration unless it eliminated the program.

There’s evidence, however, that Jeff Sessions – Stephen Miller’s former boss – colluded with Paxton to send this threat to the Trump White House in order to ensure that Trump ended DACA. And there’s evidence that the anti-immigrant extremists in the White House – Bannon, Miller, and others – wanted to time the ending of DACA so that Democrats would be forced to trade Dreamer protections for all the anti-immigrant proposals the nativists wanted.

It should come as no surprise that Miller is a favorite of the anti-immigrant hate groups, like the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Those organizations are part of the John Tanton network, a chain of anti-immigrant groups created by white nationalist John Tanton, which have been marginalized for decades but currently enjoy newfound influence in the Trump White House.

Miller is responsible for some of Trump’s most contentious policies, and he has been outspoken on immigration since he was in high school. He’s often called on to explain the administration’s overall view on the issue. “That’s his no. 1 concern,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which shares many of his views.

They do indeed share many of the same views.

As Frank Sharry, the Executive Director of America’s Voice, said in a recent statement:  

This is the moment that the hardliners – John Kelly, Stephen Miller, Tom Cotton, Bob Goodlatte, John Cornyn and their outside collaborators – have been waiting and planning for. They manipulated Trump into ending DACA; they waited for the desperation to build; they kept Trump from cutting a decent deal; and now they are making their move.

The hardliners are high-fiving; the Statue of Liberty weeps.

And in the middle of it all – Stephen Miller, provocateur, widely-unliked person, and white supremacist.