Brief # 106 Immigration

Trump Adviser’s Ties to Anti-Immigration Policies and  Hate Groups Scrutinized

By Linda F. Hersey

October 29, 2020


The Administration’s abject failure to secure identifying information on hundreds of migrant parents separated from their children at the U.S. border in 2018 raises new questions about the role of Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior adviser and chief architect of the plan, as well as Miller’s documented connections to organizations designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In a 2018 interview with The New York Times, Miller described as a “simple decision” the practice implemented by the Administration to separate parents from their children by deporting the adults and forcing the families to leave their youngsters behind, often in detention and facing an uncertain future.

That practice is under intense scrutiny again, as lawyers and advocates report that they cannot locate parents of 545 of those youngsters, whose lives are in limbo in the United States, including some who were infants when their parents were deported.

A primary reason for the challenges in finding the parents may be fear of reprisal by the U.S.

Published news reports in 2019 revealed that Miller sought to use the orphaned children to further target undocumented adults in the U.S. He advocated a plan to embed border agents in refugee agencies working to unite the youngsters with extended family members living in the U.S. after the parents were forced to leave and return to their home countries in Central America, according to the Washington Post.

The Department of Health and Human Services rejected efforts to embed the border agents at agencies whose mission and goal is to reunify the children with relatives already in the U.S., no matter their immigration status.

“Congress has made clear that it does not want those who come forward as potential sponsors of minors in U.S. custody to be frightened away by possible deportation,” the Washington Post reported in 2019 when the secret plan was revealed. “But, in the reasoning of senior Trump administration officials [including Miller], adults denied custody of children lose their status as ‘potential sponsors’ and are fair game for arrest,” the newspaper reported. Under the plan, ICE would have collected fingerprints, DNA and other information from people seeking to claim migrant children in government custody as relatives. If the claim was not supported, ICE could use the information as intelligence to potentially arrest and deport the individual.

The Southern Poverty Law Center in October 2020 is raising questions again about Miller’s role in the most controversial anti-immigration policies by the Trump Administration as well as his connections to identified hate groups, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).  Miller was a keynote speaker in 2015 at a CIS convention. Miller has expressed support for the ideology and writings of John Tanton, the founder of FAIR.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements.”  The group wants to “limit the number of nonwhites who enter” the United States, the law center reports.

Miller – in 900 emails sent to Bretibart News and later published by the New York Times – espoused his support for leaders of CIS and FAIR, and for other identified white nationalists and Far Right groups.  Numerous other media outlets also dug into the emails and published similar stories, including Newsweek and Sludge, a political news website.

“Leaked emails from White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller from 2015-2016 reveal an obsession with white nationalism, the Confederacy and the denigration of black and Hispanic communities,” Newsweek reported in December 2019.

Civil rights groups have stepped into the fray to advocate for immigrants experiencing threats of deportation and other legal barriers in the immigration system. Those groups include the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, based in San Francisco.

The group described immigration policies under the Trump Administration as “increasingly punitive.”

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights strives to “address the unmet legal needs of immigrants and, in doing so, to combat the civil rights issues plaguing the current immigration enforcement system,” according to its website.


Dozens of leading civil rights groups – a total of 59 — signed a letter demanding that Trump end Miller’s advisory role, according to The Daily Beast.

But that did not happen. Miller, a key Administration adviser, has had a pivotal role in shaping the harshest of anti-immigration policies under Trump, which span the deportation of parents without their children, a Supreme Court-challenged effort to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and another court-challenged policy to stop visas for individuals from Muslim-majority countries.

“Donald Trump and Stephen Miller have a  view on immigration that is very different from [what] Republicans have traditionally believed,” said Alex Conant, former spokesman for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, in an article published by The Guardian newspaper in  2017. Rubio, a Republican, came under attack by Miller, which was revealed in emails, when the Cuban-American senator explored a presidential bid in 2015.

Now Miller is back in the news as lawyers and human rights groups continue efforts to locate the families of 545 children displaced under the “zero tolerance” policy initiated and championed by Miller.

Resistance Resources

The Southern Poverty Law Center: Southern Poverty Law Center’s mission is to fight racial injustice and to oppose white supremacy, while advancing the rights of all people.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: The coalition includes 200 national organizations that work to support civil and human rights.

Crime and Justice Institute: “A Framework for Public Safety” Report details how to protect U.S. communities during and after the 2020 presidential election.

The United Nations offers suggestions for overcoming racism and defending human rights in your community.

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