Even in an administration that was notorious for its harsh immigration policies, Stephen Miller, senior advisor for policy during Donald Trump’s four years in office, was known as a hardliner’s hardliner. Miller, who was intensely focused on immigration issues, was a leading proponent of Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban”; his drastic reduction in the program for refugees; the policy of separating undocumented children from their parents at the border; and the decision to prevent the publication of administration studies that showed that immigrants contributed a net financial gain, not a loss, to American government. He came to the Trump administration after serving as press secretary for then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a notorious immigration hardliner in his own right before being named by Trump as U.S. attorney general. Miller, a right-wing activist since high school, previously served as an aide to two other highly conservative politicians, U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and John Shadegg (R-Ariz.).
While working for Sessions and later for Trump, Miller frequently used information and reports — many of them of highly questionable veracity — from the three major organizations nurtured by John Tanton, the racist architect of the contemporary anti-immigration movement: the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA. In 2017, for instance, Miller defended one version of Trump’s “Muslim ban” by citing a CIS study claiming that 72 people who were “implicated in terroristic activity” came from the seven countries singled out in that executive order. Noting that most of those people were not charged with crimes related to terrorism, the Washington Post concluded the CIS study was “pretty thin gruel” and gave Miller three Pinnochios for repeating its claims. The same year, Miller used CIS data to claim it cost 12 times as much to allow refugees into the U.S. as to help them in their native countries — but the CIS study he cited failed to account for immigrants’ payments of U.S. taxes. In 2015, before he joined the Trump campaign, Miller gave the keynote speech at a CIS conference, where he equated “comprehensive immigration reform” with “a massive, large-scale amnesty for illegal immigrants.” Miller, in a phrase, became the bridge between Trump and the Tanton network.
Miller has also shown a long-lasting penchant for figures on the extreme right. He adopted David Horowitz, a well-known anti-Muslim extremist, as a mentor while still in high scis.org/2015-Katz-Award-Ceremony-Transcriptchool. Later, as a student at Duke University, he worked with Richard Spencer, a white nationalist anti-Semite, to raise money for an immigration policy debate. (Spencer later described himself as a mentor to Miller, a claim that Miller denied.) In 2016, Miller granted an interview to Alex Jones, an infamous conspiracy theorist. But it was in 2019, when a tranche of emails he had sent to a writer at Breitbart News was leaked to the Southern Poverty Law Center, that Miller’s full-throated extremism became indisputable. The emails, from 2015 and 2016, showed Miller pitching the Breitbart writer various stories and arguments by urging her to look at materials he sent her from white nationalist publications like VDARE, named after the first English child in the New World; American Renaissance, edited by a man who has argued that black people are incapable of sustaining civilization; and Jones’ InfoWars. He also recommended citing The Camp of the Saints, a racist French novel that depicts “swarthy hordes” of illegal Indian immigrants taking over France. The book is a key text for white supremacists who warn of a “Great Replacement” of whites by non-whites. And he lauded Calvin Coolidge, who as president signed into law the Immigration Act of 1924, a racist quota system. After the revelations, 59 civil rights groups wrote Trump asking that he dismiss Miller. He refused to do so.
Here are a few of Miller’s comments from over the years:
“Joe Biden would be the best friend that child smugglers and child traffickers have ever had in the White House. … My God, if Joe Biden were to get elected, how many millions of children and families would be forced into the hands of these vicious criminals?”
—2020 call with reporters, arguing that if elected president, Biden would so loosen immigration policies that an explosion of human trafficking on the border would result
“I would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.”
—Quoted in 2019 book Team of Vipers by Clifford Sims, who also worked in the Trump administration
“For half a century, American workers were sold out, betrayed by politicians, had their jobs shipped overseas and had cheap foreign labor imported to drive down their wages, and take away the wealth that they need to support their families.”
—2020 Fox News interview
“Cancel culture is indeed a very grave threat to American freedom. … It’s an effort at making people so afraid to speak their mind that a minority of radicals can effectively intimidate a majority of common sense Americans, and that’s often how totalitarians function.”
—2020 radio interview, attacking “political correctness”
“Here’s a shocking thing for your audience to consider. … Any foreign national — talk about foreign election interference — can mail in a ballot, and nobody even verifies if they’re a citizen of the United States of America.”
—2020 interview with Fox News, attacking mail-in ballots even though each state does verify the identity of persons requesting mail-in ballots
“For many members of the political left, the belief in a racist society is an article of faith — beyond all reason, question or rational discussion.”
—Column written for Duke University’s campus newspaper when Miller was a junior, attacking multiculturalism and citing “racial paranoia” in denying the idea of systemic racism
“It is the most radical immigration bill ever written, drafted, or submitted in this history of this country. It is breathtaking.”
—2021 interview with Fox News, attacking a bill that would give a pathway to citizenship for some 11 million immigrants, and that incorporated many provisions supported by Republicans
“We must save Americans from these immigrant criminals!”
—In a meeting of the National Security Council, according to an official cited by Politico in 2019
“Innocent people are going to get hurt. Innocent people are going to get killed. Innocent people are going to suffer irreparable damage as a result of that decision.”
—2021 Fox News interview, claiming that President Joe Biden was “in the vast majority” of cases refusing to impose deportation detainers on undocumented immigrants ending prison sentences. He said his “vast majority” claim was based on casual conversations with immigration agents