By Josh Leach on March 3, 2020
On Monday, February 24, a new wealth test went into effect for immigrants seeking green cards, barring innumerable permanent residents and U.S. citizens from reuniting with family members abroad. The next day, a respected human rights monitor released damning new evidence about a notorious chapter of recent history. Their report confirms what we have long known: the Trump administration’s ongoing family separation policy is a form of torture.
Separating families and imposing a wealth test. What do these two policies have in common? Both cruelly and arbitrarily keep loved ones apart. Both target immigrants and people of color. And both are the brainchild of White House Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller.
Here are three specific reasons Stephen Miller must leave office now:
1. Miller has been the lead architect of Trump administration policies that violate fundamental human rights
All leading figures in the Trump administration, from the President on down, have been complicit in policies that separate families and violate human rights. Few, however, have played as much of an instigating role as Stephen Miller, according to voluminous reporting on the inner workings of the Trump White House. Among the worst of his actions, he served as a major proponent within the administration of the so-called “zero tolerance” policy of separating asylum-seeking parents from their children.
The inhumanity of this policy has long been known; a recent report from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), however, has underlined just how gravely basic human rights were violated in the course of its implementation. The organization found numerous cases in which U.S. authorities threatened asylum-seeking parents with never seeing their children again and denied them any information about where their loved ones were being taken. PHR’s report concludes such practices are a form of torture and enforced disappearance (i.e., when people go missing at the hands of the State)—two profound violations of international law.
In addition to separating families at the border, the Trump administration is also making it harder for immigrants in the U.S. to reunite with their loved ones abroad. One policy that has this effect is the so-called “public charge” rule, which would block many working class immigrants from qualifying for green cards in the United States. The burden of this rule would fall hardest on the family members of U.S. permanent residents and citizens, who make up the bulk of green card applicants each year.
Once again, Miller’s handiwork is in evidence. Media reports agree that Miller was the driving force behind the “public charge” rule, which he pushed through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with monomaniacal zeal.
2. Miller’s policies are only getting worse and more far-reaching
Although public attention has shifted away from the family separation policy in the last year, this doesn’t mean it has come to a stop. It is true that an important June 2018 court order blocked some forms of the “zero tolerance” policy from remaining in effect, but the administration has exploited loopholes in this injunction to continue to take kids from their parents, often invoking spurious “criminal history” and “health-based” justifications for the removals with no due process. In all, at least 1,100 migrant families have been separated since the court order went into effect.
Other policies Miller masterminded are blocking even more asylum-seekers from reaching safety. These include the administration’s “Remain in Mexico” plan and so-called “safe third-country” agreements with Central American governments. Both policies trap families in danger, or send them to places where they face torture and persecution. For many, the cost of Stephen Miller’s policies is their lives.
3. Miller is a committed white supremacist
Sadly, Stephen Miller is far from the only member of the Trump administration to express racist views and promote a white nationalist agenda. Indeed, the president he serves has made a litany of comments denigrating immigrants, Muslims, Jews, people of color, and countries in the Global South.
Miller stands apart, however, with the extent of his well-documented commitment to white nationalist ideology, as well as the sophistication of his policy understanding. This makes for a deadly cocktail that enables Miller to carry the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda far beyond what previous policy-makers thought possible.
Miller’s on-the-record racism is notorious. In a shocking and widely reported revelation last November, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a tranche of emails Stephen Miller exchanged with editors of the far-right news outlet Breitbart News Network. Miller’s comments in the emails revealed a close ideological alignment with white nationalism, as Miller cited sources from racist websites, warned against demographic change, and fondly recommended a 1973 novel that promotes genocide against immigrants of color.
After these appalling comments and views were made public, the Trump administration failed to condemn Miller’s actions, or even to acknowledge the validity of the public’s concerns. Instead, White House spokespeople promoted an absurd claim that criticism of Stephen Miller’s behavior was a form of anti-Semitism.
In reality, anti-Semitism and Miller’s brand of white nationalism are kindred ideologies. Religious minorities and people of color face a common threat from racist ideologies that seek to equate belonging in U.S. society with whiteness and Christianity. It is no coincidence that the global rise in anti-Semitic violence has happened alongside the resurgence of other forms of populist authoritarianism and ethno-religious bigotry, including Islamophobia and anti-Blackness.
Such ideologies of hate should have no place in our government. The country that Stephen Miller would create does not align with the Statue of Liberty, the Bill of Rights, or the international human rights agreements that our government has pledged to uphold. He has done enough damage; it is time for Miller to leave office and end his reign of destruction.
Photo Credit: iStock – narvikk
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