As President Donald Trump was ramping up his 2016 presidential campaign, his future top immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, was engaged in a different kind of campaign, sending hundreds of emails promoting white nationalism, according to a new report. In messages to a fellow anti-immigration activist at a far-right website, Miller warned of "white genocide," offered clearly racist characterizations of migrants, and promoted links to white supremacist screeds.
The emails help explain how Miller's influence on Trump's immigration policies led to family separations and other horrors at the border — policies concocted largely by an adviser who, the newly revealed emails indicate, regards brown-skinned immigrants as inferior to whites.
Calls for Miller's resignation are appropriate but probably will go nowhere. In this administration, bigotry and right-wing extremism sometimes seem like resume-boosters.
The 34-year-old Miller has long been among the most controversial members of Trump's inner circle. He was the driving force behind the implementation of Trump's call for travel bans on visitors from Muslim-majority countries. He further stirred the pot with his authoritarian declaration in 2017 that Trump's immigration powers "will not be questioned."
Before Miller was shaping Trump's immigration policies, he was helping shape anti-immigrant, white nationalist coverage by the alt-right site Breitbart News in 2015 and 2016, when he was an aide to then-Alabama senator and future Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
An analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center of hundreds of leaked emails from Miller to a Breitbart writer shows how Miller influenced that site's coverage of immigration issues — coverage that helped inflame anti-immigrant sentiment that would later become such a prominent part of Trump's base and may have influenced a mass shooting targeting Hispanics this year.
In the emails, Miller promotes a racist novel that depicts immigrants from India raping white women; he laments the removal of Confederate symbolism after white nationalist Dylann Roof killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina; and he obsesses over fringe racist ideas like the danger of "white genocide" at the hands of non-white immigrants.
The investigation charted how Miller's ideas ended up in articles posted on Breitbart — and, later, as the basis for administration immigration policies.
For example, the administration's decision to deny temporary immigrant status to the (mostly black) residents of the Bahamas fleeing Hurricane Dorian this year is in line with Miller's 2015 emails encouraging Breitbart to highlight opposition to migration from storm-ravaged areas. Those and other emails were leaked by a previously anti-immigrant Breitbart writer, who says she has changed her views on the topic.
The report doesn't so much expose Miller's extremism as confirm it. That extremism has always been visible in the immigration policies of an administration that — we now know, beyond debate — has their underpinnings in some of the darkest corners of the white nationalist movement.
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