As you’ve probably heard by now, Stephen Miller’s uncle has produced a scorching piece in which he describes the Miller family’s immigration history, pointedly noting that Miller, a senior adviser to President Trump, “has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.”
Miller’s uncle, David S. Glosser, recounts that their “family emerged from poverty in a hostile country to become a prosperous, educated clan of merchants, scholars, professionals, and, most important, American citizens.” He draws a direct link between Miller’s family history and the current efforts by people who are trying to come here, out of very similar motives, and excoriates Miller for putting in place an agenda that is trying to prevent that from happening. The result, Glosser notes, is a “human tragedy” in which countless “vulnerable people are being hurt.”
But it is this passage, about the Trump immigration crackdown and Miller’s role in implementing it, that really jumps out:
Trump wants to make us believe that these desperate migrants are an existential threat to the United States; the most powerful nation in world history and a nation made strong by immigrants. Trump and my nephew both know their immigrant and refugee roots. Yet, they repeat the insults and false accusations of earlier generations against these refugees to make them seem less than human. Trump publicly parades the grieving families of people hurt or killed by migrants, just as the early Nazis dredged up Jewish criminals to frighten and enrage their political base to justify persecution of all Jews.
I’m not aware of any instance in which Miller himself has publicly engaged in the sort of vicious public dehumanization of immigrants that Trump regularly engages in. However, now that Miller’s uncle has lodged these accusations, it’s worth recalling this much: A great deal of Trump’s immigration agenda, which Miller is central to implementing, is based on the rationale that migrants are fundamentally a threat to this country or an economic drag on it. This case has been offered in transparently bad faith at best, and, at worst, has required the outright burial of contrary facts.
First, the thinly-veiled Muslim ban. During the campaign, Trump openly admitted he was focusing it on a handful of majority-Muslim countries precisely because explicitly calling it a Muslim ban (which he had, in fact, originally done) was too controversial. He admitted that focusing it on countries was designed to accomplish the same end as the Muslim ban. Then came its laughably slapdash rollout, which Miller was at the center of, and which strongly suggested that little serious thought or interagency input went into its design. It subsequently went forward despite the fact that two internal Department of Homeland Security analyses badly undercut its national security rationale.
Then there are the child separations. Miller has tried to justify the family-separation policy by claiming it was about consistently applying the law so “no one is exempt.” But thanks to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, we know the real rationale behind criminally prosecuting all border-crossers, families included, is to threaten an outcome (the separations) that is so horrifying that it will dissuade people from trying to seek refuge here, even those fleeing horrific conditions.
Then there are the “dreamers.” Earlier this year, amid the government-shutdown fight over their fate, Trump himself said he wanted to protect them. But when Democrats signaled to Trump that he could have his wall money in exchange for doing what he himself claimed to want to do, his hard-line advisers talked him out of it. Guess who was at the center of that? Yep: Stephen Miller.
Then there’s the refugee crackdown. Last fall, when the administration was debating whether to cut the number of refugees to the United States, Miller actively intervened to deep-six internal administration data that refugees are a net economic positive to the country. He did this on deeply spurious grounds, insisting, as the New York Times put it, that “only the costs” and “not any fiscal benefit” of refugees would be considered.
The administration is now mulling yet another cut to refugee admissions, one that might bring them down to as low as 15,000 per year, the lowest since the refugee program was set up in 1980. Miller is at the center of this effort, too. One unnamed administration official — let’s call him, oh, I don’t know, how about “Steven Miller” — told the Times that this was justified because of a “migration crisis,” which is requiring the administration to prioritize dealing with asylum seekers already present in the United States.
But despite claims of a “migration crisis,” last year the refugee cap was already set by Trump at 45,000, which was its lowest point yet. Indeed, the administration has already used all manner of bureaucratic tactics to whittle actual refugee flows to a level far below that cap, which leaves resources already earmarked for refugees sitting unused. The idea that the need to deal with currently present asylum seekers necessitates slashing the flow of refugees from abroad even further is utter nonsense.
Miller may or may not believe that immigrants pose an “existential” threat to the United States, as his uncle claims. But we do know that, to justify Trump’s agenda, he has hyped the threat that migrants pose with a steady stream of rationales that are absolutely saturated in bad faith.