About Stephen Miller
Stephen Miller is credited with shaping the racist and draconian immigration policies of President Trump, which include the zero-tolerance policy, also known as family separation, the Muslim ban and ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Miller has also “purged” government agencies of civil servants who are not entirely loyal to his extremist agenda, according to a report in Vanity Fair.
And during the COVID-19 crisis, the Trump administration’s decision to halt the issuance of new green cards is yet another example of its hard line on immigration.
Through the conscious use of fearmongering and xenophobia, Miller implements policies which demonize immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, in an apparent effort to halt all forms of immigration to the United States.
In response to seeing photos of children being separated from their parents at the U.S. border with Mexico as a result of the zero-tolerance policy, an external White House adviser, in a Vanity Fair report, said, “Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border.” According to Miller, the administration’s decision to institute the policy was “a simple decision.”
Through his connections to the anti-Muslim movement, Miller landed his first job in Washington, D.C. as a staffer on Capitol Hill. In less than a decade, Miller would go from a congressional staffer to an adviser to the Trump campaign.
During this time, Miller influenced the editorial direction of the highly trafficked conservative website Breitbart.com, sharing white nationalist and anti-immigrant propaganda with their editors in an effort to buoy Trump’s run, according to leaked emails reviewed by Hatewatch. His role in the campaign included crafting then-candidate Trump’s nativist immigration platform, writing campaign speeches as well as being the opening speaker during rallies.
At a June 16, 2016, campaign rally in Dallas, Miller’s speech made clear the campaign then-candidate Trump was going to run and foreshadowed the nativist policies Miller and the administration would eventually pursue.
In speaking about the impact of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., Miller said, “You’ve seen what it does to living standards. You’ve seen what it does to wages. You’ve seen what it does in terms of transnational cartels. You’ve seen what it has done to the innocent victims of illegal immigrant crime … You have seen the death. You have seen the needless destruction because we can’t secure this border.”
Miller’s use of the state to vilify immigrants has led to calls for his resignation. After Hatewatch’s investigative reporting verified Miller’s white nationalist perspective, more than 80 Democratic members of Congress called for his resignation. Opposition to Miller and his agenda have also surfaced within the rank-and-file civil servants who are charged with discharging the administration’s policies.
In his own words
“It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.” June 16, 2018, Miller’s response to criticism of the administration’s former “zero-tolerance” policy, also known as family separation
“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?” July 6, 2017, Remarks by President Trump to the People of Poland, drafted by Miller
“The powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.” Feb.12, 2017, Miller during an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation
“It has never been easier in American history for illegal aliens to commit crimes of violence against Americans.” - Jan. 5, 2016, email with the subject line “off-the-record observation”
“[T]his is a good chance to expose that ridiculous statue of liberty myth. Poem has nothing to do with it … Indeed, two decades after poem was added, Coolidge shut down immigration.” - Sept. 13, 2015, Miller’s response to two Republican senators voicing their sympathy for refugees
“Like the mystics of old, the one sure way to get rich in modern America is to offer yourself up as a virtue signal to those seeking to prove themselves members in good standing of the national religion – diversity.” Nov. 23, 2015, Miller sarcastically referring to diversity as the United States’ “national religion”
Born in 1985, Stephen Miller grew up in Santa Monica, California and attended Santa Monica High School from 1999 to 2003. “Miller’s evolving political views could not have been more at odds with those of progressive, inclusive Santa Monica, a fact in which he delighted,” wrote Vanity Fair special correspondent William D. Cohan. Additionally, former classmates of Miller recall how he would challenge Latino students to speak English and argued against multi-language school announcements, according to a National Public Radio report on Miller’s early years.
Miller started working with far-right hate groups while studying at Duke University. He worked with the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an anti-Muslim hate group, organizing events such as an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” on Duke’s campus. He also served as the first national coordinator of the Center’s “Terrorism Awareness Project.” To Miller, the project existed to “make our fellow students aware of the Islamic jihad and the terrorist threat, and to mobilize support for the defense of America and the civilization of the West.”
Miller also worked with classmate Richard Spencer, as members of Duke’s Conservative Union. The pair organized a speaking event which brought white nationalist Peter Brimelow to campus in 2007. Brimelow is the founder of the white nationalist group VDARE, which regularly publishes the work of eugenicists, nativists and other extremists. Spencer is arguably the most notorious white nationalist figure in the U.S. He is credited with popularizing the term “alt-right,” and was scheduled to serve as the headline speaker at the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
In a 2016 interview with Mother Jones, Spencer confirmed his relationship with Miller, saying, “I knew him very well when I was at Duke. But I am kind of glad no one’s talked about this because I don’t want to harm Trump.”
Similar to his behavior in high school, Miller enjoyed taking controversial stands while at Duke. When three players on the university’s lacrosse team were accused of raping a Black woman they hired as an adult entertainer, Miller fervently questioned whether the issue of race played in a role in the case, according to an April 14, 2017 article in New York Magazine.
In one of his biweekly columns for the campus newspaper, Miller argued, “if you find yourself in the presence of a student who insists the lacrosse players are a bunch of racist criminals and that the players are guilty no matter what the evidence says – put them in their place.” He continued, “if you don’t, I will.”
Goodbye Durham, N.C., Hello Washington, D.C.
Miller’s first position within federal policymaking circles began when he served as press secretary for former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in 2008. During her time in Congress, Bachmann openly peddled anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, specifically pushing the unfounded claim that the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated the U.S. government in pursuit of “America’s demise.”
Bachmann later claimed to have served in an advisory role to then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on foreign policy. According to Bachmann, Trump, “recognizes there is a threat around the world, not just here in Minnesota, of radical Islam.”
In 2009, Miller transitioned to a communications role with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions. While serving in the U.S. Senate, Sessions, of Alabama, was one of the anti-immigrant movement’s strongest allies and regularly cited reports produced by anti-immigrant hate groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
Both organizations were founded by the late John Tanton, a eugenicist, white nationalist and the architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement. Tanton’s views on immigration were best summarized in a Dec. 10, 1993, letter where he concluded, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”
During his time with Sessions, Miller became known for sending mass emails on immigration to fellow Republican staffers. According to one Republican staffer who spoke with The New Yorker, Miller’s immigration-related emails regularly shared links from “fringe websites,” so much so that the staffer admitted, “I just started deleting them when I’d see his name.” “Everyone did,” the staffer added.
In the spring of 2013, Miller and Sessions played a key role in ensuring the failure of a comprehensive immigration bill introduced by a bipartisan group of senators who became known as the Gang of Eight. The bill sought to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants while increasing border security.
To orchestrate the downfall of the bill, Miller used Breitbart News as a space where he could propagate his anti-immigrant ideals. The ideas and stories Miller suggested to Breitbart centered on one goal: decimating the Gang of Eight bill.
While the bill ultimately failed for a variety of reasons, Steve Bannon, then the head of Breitbart News, lauded Miller and Sessions’ role in stopping the bill, likening it to “the civil-rights movement in the nineteen-sixties.” Sessions went on to serve as attorney general of the United States from 2017 to 2018.
Miller’s emails to Breitbart News
From March 4, 2015, to June 27, 2016, Miller, at the time a staffer in Sessions’ office, and subsequently as an advisor to then-presidential candidate Trump, sent over 900 emails to Breitbart News editors. Katie McHugh, a former editor at Breitbart News from April 2014 to June 2017, who has since renounced the far-right, leaked the emails to SPLC’s Hatewatch in June 2019.
The emails show evidence of Miller’s indulgence and sharing of the racist source material he relied upon to define the ethos of his immigration policies. Throughout the emails, Miller promotes literature, conspiracy theories, and policies supported by white nationalist and anti-immigrant hate groups.
In a Sept. 6, 2015, email to Breitbart’s McHugh, Miller suggested that they write about Jean Raspail’s, “The Camp of the Saints,” a racist French novel popular among white nationalist and neo-Nazis. The novel is popular within extremist circles because of its dramatized depiction of “white genocide,” also referred to as the “great replacement” conspiracy theory. According to this theory, white people of European descent are being systematically displaced in the Western world.” When Raspail died in June 2020, VDARE author Steve Sailer, who Miller linked to in his emails to McHugh, publicly mourned his loss.
The novel utilizes an apocalyptic plot in which Indian refugees invade France, and their failure to assimilate or adopt French cultural norms ultimately leads to the domination of the white population. The main antagonist is referred to as the “turd eater.” In one section of the novel, a white woman is raped to death by a group of brown-skinned refugees. Additionally, another part of the novel depicts the killing of a pro-refugee leftist by a nationalist character because of the leftist’s support of race mixing.
Miller recommended that Breitbart write about the novel in response to Pope Francis’ expressions of sympathy for refugees. Miller wrote, “you see the Pope saying west must, in effect, get rid of borders. Someone should point out the parallels to Camp of the Saints.”
Several of the emails show Miller’s admiration for former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, particularly Coolidge’s implementation of the Immigration Act of 1924. Coolidge, a supporter of eugenics who once wrote, “biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend,” instituted the bill to severely limit immigration from certain parts of the world. According to James Q. Whitman, the Ford Foundation professor of comparative and foreign law at Yale Law School, Hitler pointed to Coolidge’s Immigration Act of 1924 in “Mein Kampf” as a potential model to be replicated.
During an Aug. 4, 2015 email exchange about halting all immigration to the United States for several years, Miller highlights Coolidge as an example to follow. In the email, Miller responded to the policy suggestion, which was made on a right-wing talk radio show, by holding up the historical precedent set by Coolidge, writing, “like Coolidge did. Kellyanne Conway poll says that is exactly what most Americans want after 40 years of non-stop record arrivals.”
The emails also revealed how Miller engaged in peddling anti-immigrant conspiracy theories and nativist content. One of McHugh’s stories for Breitbart, “Ted Kennedy’s Legacy: 50 Years of Ruinous Immigration Law,” used the 50th anniversary of the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 to portray the legislation as harmful to the U.S. because it did away with racial quota laws. Unsurprisingly, Miller was the story’s brainchild. On March 30, 2015, he suggested the story idea to McHugh, emailing: “They opened the Ted Kennedy Center today in Boston. Another opportunity to revisit the ‘65 immigration law.”
After the publication of McHugh’s story, Miller praised it and explained why Breitbart was the only news media outlet covering the topic. According to Miller: “Elites can’t allow the people to see that their condition is not the product of events beyond their control, but the product of policy they foisted onto them.” The “great replacement” conspiracy theory Miller espoused in his email is also embraced by white nationalist who believe that whites are being purposefully replaced in the U.S.
Along these lines, Miller steered McHugh in the direction of content from other white nationalist websites such as American Renaissance. Founded in 1990 by Jared Taylor, American Renaissance is a self-proclaimed think tank which propagates pseudoscientific claims about the supposed inherent inferiority of nonwhite people. Taylor, in 2005, claimed, “blacks and whites are different. When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilization – any kind of civilization – disappears.”
Miller, who in a private phone conversation referred to the white nationalist site according to its nickname ‘AmRen ,’according to McHugh, flagged an article about crime statistics and race titled, “New DOJ Statistics on Race and Violent Crime.” The piece, which was written by Taylor, went on to celebrate the Department of Justice’s decision to categorize Hispanics separate from whites and Miller advanced the piece as one to be cited when Breitbart covered race and crime.
Similarly, an analysis of the emails shows how Miller consistently shared content from CIS to highlight negative stories about nonwhite immigration. On Jan. 5, 2016, he shared a CIS report titled, “Social Security Data Points to Growth in 2nd-Generation Muslim Population.” He then, on Aug. 12, 2015, suggested that McHugh read another CIS’ report, “Immigration Population Hits Record 42.1 Million in Second Quarter of 2015.”
Miller’s promotion of these reports led directly to McHugh publishing articles titled, “Report: Dramatic Increase in the Number of U.S. Babies Named Muhammad,” and “Surge of Mexican Immigration Pushes Foreign-Born Population to 42.1 Million as Economy Stagnates.” Using racist source material from anti-immigrant hate groups, and their subsequent publicity, Miller deliberately employed scare tactics to stigmatize the U.S.’ immigration population.
In addition to electronically distributing CIS content, Miller went as far as personally connecting McHugh to CIS’ director of research, Steven A. Camarota. An Aug. 12, 2015, email to McHugh with the subject line, “Camarota Cell,” did just that. Just a few months prior to the August 2015 email, Miller attended a CIS award ceremony in May and as the keynote speaker lauded CIS’ work. Miller commented on how CIS’ work shed light on “a debate that far too often operates, like illegal immigrants, in the shadows.”
The Trump Campaign to the Present
On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump, from Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York, announced his candidacy for President of United States with bigoted and bombastic remarks that foreshadowed the types of anti-immigrant policies his administration has since implemented.
In reference to immigrants coming from Mexico and other parts of the world, Trump asserted, “they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Trump added: “It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably – probably – from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.”
Trump’s words and sentiments strongly resonated with Miller's fundamental beliefs on immigration and nonwhite immigration to the U.S. Miller later reflected about sensing a “jolt of electricity to my soul,” and that for the first time, he felt “as though everything that I felt at the deepest levels of my heart were for now being expressed by a candidate for our nation’s highest office before a watching world.”
By January 2016, Miller took a leave of absence from then-Senator Jeff Sessions’ office to join the Trump campaign.
During the campaign, Miller served as a speech writer for Trump after Bannon recommended him to senior Trump campaign officials. Bannon believed Miller’s experience working on immigration policy in the Senate made him an asset because of the campaign’s hyper focused attention on the issue. Bannon viewed Miller as an integral cog in the Trump campaign machine, saying, “you just can’t wing it. Immigration is too important. You need policy people on this.”
Following Trump’s victory in the 2016 Presidential election, Miller became a senior policy adviser to the president. Since stepping into this position, he has been the driving force behind many of the administration’s draconian immigration policies. These policies demonstrate the significant influence that anti-immigrant hate groups have had on Miller.
In a Buzzfeed News report, one Department of Homeland Security official lamented the fact that his agency has become Miller’s personal laboratory for enacting nativist measures. “I'm disgusted that my venerable agency has turned into his personal tool for hate,” the official remarked.
One of the dehumanizing administration policies Miller advanced was the “zero-tolerance” policy, a policy which caused a surge in the number of children and parents being separated from one another when caught crossing into the U.S. via the U.S.-Mexico border.
According to The Washington Post, despite public outrage over the policy, “Miller defended the separations and had encouraged the president to enact them – telling others in the West Wing they would prove to be a migration deterrent.” Due to the immense blowback of the policy, President Trump ended its practice but as of August 2019, but Miller continued to defend it.
Despite President Trump’s executive order ending the policy, the administration has continued to utilize covert practices to continue separating families at the U.S. border, as SPLC recently reported.
The implementation of the Trump administration’s Muslim ban is another policy Miller played a fundamental role in creating. The policy, known formally as the “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” banned entry of travelers from several majority-Muslim countries. The ban faced legal scrutiny upon release, and it was not until 18 months after its initial release, and three versions of it later, that the order withstood legal challenges.
Another administration policy Miller focused his anti-immigrant fervor on was President Trump’s decision to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Obama created the program as a measure to protect from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. President Trump announced DACA’s termination on Sept. 5, 2017, saying that “young Americans have dreams too.”
In the trove of emails analyzed by Hatewatch, Miller vocalized a belief in the idea that DACA recipients would advance the reshaping of the U.S.’ demographics by replacing native born citizens. On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end the program in a 5-4 ruling.
Most recently, on April 21, 2020, The New York Times reported on how Miller and Robert Law, chief of the Office of Policy and Strategy for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), drafted President Trump’s executive order blocking the issuance of new green cards. The administration cited the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for the newest executive order.
Both Miller and Law have well-documented ties to anti-immigrant hate groups such as CIS and FAIR. The Trump administration’s most recent actions shed light on how it intends to target legal immigration categories moving forward. Enforcing a complete moratorium on immigration is one of the long-sought after goals of both white nationalist and anti-immigrant extremists.