President Trump may be consumed by impeachment, but White House Adviser Stephen Miller remains laser-focused on executing his racist anti-immigrant agenda. Despite calls for Miller’s removal by lawmakers and civil rights organizations, his oppressive policies and appointments continue to be rolled out at a frantic pace.
Last week, Hatewatch exposed hundreds of emails Miller sent to the conservative website Breitbart. The emails confirm what we’ve known all along: Miller is a white nationalist hellbent on anti-immigrant policies. Since the release of the emails, more than 50 civil rights groups wrote to Trump demanding Miller’s removal. More than 80 lawmakers have called for Miller’s resignation or termination. The chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus have all called on Miller to resign. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Mazie Hirono have also called for Miller’s resignation. Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro called Miller a “Neo-Nazi” and “a shame to our nation,” and Sen. Bernie Sanders called him “a danger to the American people.”
This widespread condemnation has neither lost Miller his job, nor stopped him from rolling out more anti-immigrant policies. On Wednesday, BuzzFeed reported that the Trump administration will begin deporting adults seeking asylum at the southern border to Guatemala, so long as they passed through a “safe third country” on the way to the border. This is the result of an agreement Trump struck with Guatemala on July 26. The courts in Guatemala initially rejected the deal, but Trump responded to that news with threats of tariffs, remittance fees or other retaliation. Days later, Guatemala gave in. Miller’s fingerprints are all over this policy, as he reportedly chastised State Department employee Kimberly Breier for not defending it enough. Breier, who was assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, resigned shortly thereafter.
But the Trump administration’s agreement with Guatemala doesn’t meet the standard required by the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act that the third country has a “full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum.” Guatemala cannot handle even a fraction of the over 55,000 asylum seekers sent back to Mexico under the Miller-driven “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their immigration court cases. The border has filled with tent cities as a result, as there is a backlog of nearly 900,000 asylum cases. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that in 2018, Guatemala received 257 asylum applications and only accepted 17.
Despite this, under Trump and Miller’s plan, deported migrants must attempt to seek asylum in Guatemala instead of in the U.S. “This racist policy is a part of Trump’s white nationalist plan to dismantle the entire asylum system, and prevent people of color from coming to our country,” said Adrian Reyna, strategy director of United We Dream Action, an immigrant rights organization. “This is Trump’s and Stephen Miller’s white nationalist plan.”
Stephen Miller has also been working to fill vacancies at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with his allies. Last week, Trump elevated Miller ally Ken Cuccinelli to the No. 2 position at the DHS, in a move seen as legally questionable, and these potential legal problems have led to several revisions to who is listed on DHS’s leadership webpage. Cuccinelli is infamous for his anti-immigrant policies. He’s sought to eliminate birthright citizenship. He rewrote the poem on the Statue of Liberty in a CNN interview, changing the words in order to support changes to the “public charge” rule that would discourage immigrants from accessing the benefits they need. And as a Virginia state senator, he introduced a proposal that would allow employers to fire their workers for speaking Spanish. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, called Cuccinelli an “anti-immigrant fringe figure and Trump sycophant.”
As criticism of Miller and his allies grows, the White House has been playing defense. For example, it responded to the release of Miller’s racist emails by trying to discredit the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which first reported on the emails, saying SPLC was “beneath public discussion.” A White House official told The Daily Beast earlier this week that “the president has [Miller’s] back.” But SPLC continues to publish new information about what Miller’s emails show, including that he planted stories against Sen. Marco Rubio during the 2016 election. Miller prefers to work in the shadows and not leave a paper trail, so the broadcasting of his emails to Breitbart is surely causing stress at the White House.
It’s also likely that Miller has angered Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by working to place Cuccinelli at DHS. Cuccinelli became president of a conservative organization that campaigned against McConnell in the 2014 Kentucky Senate election, and is so unpopular in the Republican-led Senate that he couldn’t be confirmed through the normal process, according to Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn.
Meanwhile, pressure campaigns are mounting to bring about Miller’s termination. Campaigns for “The Squad,” together with the Women’s March and Justice Democrats, have set up a petition at MillerMustGo.com that has nearly 70,000 signers to date. If there’s one thing Trump has shown time and time again, it’s that he will throw anyone under the bus who threatens his power, no matter how loyal they’ve been. With impeachment cranking up the temperature on Trump, and his need to keep his Republican allies in the Senate placated, if there were ever a time Stephen Miller seemed vulnerable, it’s now.