Stephen Miller is a man on a mission
Be it his declaration that neo-Nazi's are "very fine people," or his most recent twitter spectacle, where he retweeted a video involving a white man shouting "white power," (which he later deleted), President Donald Trump's last four years have been about platforming and elevating racist and xenophobic viewpoints.
A more grueling example of the administration's white nationalist agenda, however, is in its repeated efforts to gut the American immigration system.
Aside from Trump's well-documented history of racist and xenophobic statements; where he told four Congresswoman of colour to "go back" to their countries of origin, referred to Haiti and countries in Africa as "sh*thole" countries, and stated he'd like more immigrants from Norway, one only needs to glance over at Trump's longstanding senior policy advisor, Stephen Miller, to understand the motives behind the campaign to dismantle the immigration system. In an administration that is known for a high turnover rate, Miller is one of the very few that has remained a mainstay in Trump's cabinet.
It was Miller who co-wrote the original Muslim Ban in 2017 alongside then-chief strategist, Steve Bannon. The senior policy advisor, who's got a particular dislike for Somalia (one of the countries on the Muslim Ban), is also responsible for the drastic reduction in the number of refugees accepted to the United States. This isn't surprising given Miller once said that he "would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched American soil."
|Targeting individuals on student visas certainly demonstrates the White House's xenophobic agenda|
The list of examples illustrating the White House's assault on immigration is vast. In the last four years, the Trump administration has made dramatic cuts in refugee admissions (which currently stands at the lowest it has ever been since the resettlement plan began in 1980), instituted the Muslim and African ban, ended the Temporary Protection Status for individuals from six different countries, dramatically increased the deportation of immigrants by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and implemented a zero-tolerance policy resulting in at least 2,500 children being forcibly removed and separated from their parents. The majority of these policies target Black people and people of colour, further demonstrating the underlying racism in the administration's effort to reshape the current immigration system.
One recent example of this came on June 25, 2020, when the Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration in a ruling limiting the role of federal courts in reviewing the cases of asylum seekers. In other words, asylum seekers who'd had their appeals denied by immigration officials are now unable to appeal the decision in federal court, leading to swifter deportations.
Read more: How Trump is using coronavirus to push his white nationalist election agenda
Such a decision severely undercuts the due process rights of asylum seekers and could result in putting the individuals' lives in grave danger. Following that decision, Lee Gelerent, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who represented the petitioner, said the ruling "fails to live up to the Constitution's bedrock principle that individuals deprived of their liberty have their day in court, and this includes asylum seekers. This decision means that some people facing flawed deportation orders can be forcibly removed with no judicial oversight, putting their lives in grave danger."
Miller's efforts to chip away the immigration system also involve eliminating (or severely limiting) many legal paths to immigration to the United States. It's been reported that Miller is using the Covid-19 pandemic to carry out his immigration crackdown, justifying blatantly harmful actions under the guise of "protecting" Americans.
For example, in late April of this year, Trump issued a presidential proclamation temporarily halting the issuance of green cards, which legal rights groups estimate could "cut total immigration to the United States by 33 percent, with the biggest impact on immigrants from Asia, Central America, Africa."
Further, on June 22, Trump issued another order temporarily suspending new H-1B visas (work visas of which individuals from India are the largest recipients) and "barring hundreds of thousands of foreigners from seeking employment in the United States."
In the past, Miller has "wept" during discussions on H-1B. Most recently, on 6 July, ICE issued a directive stating all international students whose classes have moved to online-only must either transfer, leave, or face deportation. It's unclear whether Miller had a role in this latest order, but targeting individuals on student visas certainly demonstrates the White House's xenophobic agenda.
The administration has pointed to the Covid-19 pandemic as justification for the orders, claiming that such policies are needed given the high unemployment figures. However, such arguments run contrary to reality; there have been numerous studies demonstrating the positive impacts that foreign workers and businesses have on the economy, noting that it is a "net creator of growth and opportunity." One can see this most clearly in the tech industry, where some of the largest companies, including Google, Apple and Facebook all had first- or second-generation immigrants on the founding team.
|Executing policies aimed at restricting who is welcome in the United States is a rallying cry directed at the president's most die-hard supporters|
Miller's racist and xenophobic views aren't a hallmark of his current role, rather they're a fundamental part of his identity. Prior to joining 45's administration, Miller worked for then-Senator Jeff Sessions, who also briefly served in the Trump administration, where he sent out mass emails about immigration and collaborated with Breitbart, a far-right media outlet.
His affiliation with fringe right-wing organisations, particularly with an Islamophobic agenda, can be traced back to his mentor, David Horowitz. During Miller's college years, he worked with Horowitz's organisation and led an "Islamo-fascism awareness week" at Duke University, where he was reportedly friends with white supremacist, Richard Spencer.
The Southern Poverty Law Center was able to get access to hundreds of Miller's past emails showing he was in constant contact with Breitbart during 2015-2016. In his conversations with the media company, Miller pushed racist immigration stories, citing white nationalist and conspiracy-ridden websites.
SPLC found that more than 80 percent of the emails "related to or appear[ed] on threads relating to the subjects of race or immigration." Miller's own words provide the reasoning behind this administration's policies: to make America white again.
Given the Trump administration's abject failure in combatting the Covid-19 pandemic, and that 2020 is an election year, it's not shocking that the White House is churning out these rulings. Executing policies aimed at restricting who is welcome in the United States is a rallying cry directed at the president's most die-hard supporters, and they serve as a great distraction from the public health disaster ravaging the country.
For Miller, though this is not just a campaign strategy, it's part of his mission to eviscerate the current system for decades to come.
Mobashra Tazamal is a researcher on Islamophobia at The Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University. Her work has appeared in Al Jazeera, The Independent, Middle East Eye, and AltMuslimah.
Follow her on Twitter:@mobbiemobes
Opinions expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.