Factsheet: Stephen Miller
IMPACT: Stephen Miller is a Senior Advisor to President Donald Trump and has helped create anti-immigration policies targeting Muslims and people of color.
Stephen Miller is Senior Advisor for Policy to President Donald Trump. In his role, Miller has contributed to several anti-immigration policies. In 2017, he and then-chief strategist Steve Bannon wrote President Trump’s Executive Order banning individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, which many called a Muslim ban. According to Politico, he did not consult Senators or lawyers when drafting the order, which upon execution resulted in deportations and long detainments of individuals from Muslim-majority countries.
According to Politico, Miller is one of the key figures behind the drastic reduction in the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. In 2018, the maximum number of refugees was set at 45,000, the lowest since the program started in 1980. The first half of 2019 witnessed a 90% reduction in the number of Muslim refugees admitted in comparison to the first half of 2017. In 2016, the U.S. accepted 38,900 Muslim refugees, the highest in history. According to the Pew Research center, since January 2019, the U.S. has only admitted 4,600 Muslim refugees.
A 2019 article in the Washington Post, noted that “Trump and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller ‘seemed to have a particular dislike for Somalia, often citing it or its nationals when they spoke of the potential dangers of refugees and other immigrants.’” Somalia is one of the countries included in the travel ban.
A 2017 article in the New York Times found that Miller intervened in the publication of a Department of Health and Human Services internal study to suppress research stating that refugees were a net positive to the U.S. economy. According to Cliff Sims, a former White House communications aide, Miller once said that he “would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched American soil.”
An April 2019 Politico article revealed that Miller was behind a provision in the January 2017 Executive Order that excluded undocumented immigrants from federal privacy protections. He was also an advocate for advancing the policy of “zero tolerance,” in which adults who crossed the border would be prosecuted. Under this policy, parents were separated from their children, and the children were kept in facilities that often lacked basic necessities.
The New York Times reported that Miller has allied himself with the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), FAIR, and NumbersUSA in his policy work. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated all three as hate groups at the “nexus of the American nativist movement.” These organizations also have a history of anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy; for example, CIS executive director Mark Krikorian once called Muslims a “vicious people.”
Miller has promoted low-level staffers who share his anti-immigration views to key policy positions. Among these are John Zadrozny, who previously worked at FAIR, and Andrew Veprek, who CNN found had “disputed the idea that leaders have a ‘duty’ to condemn hate speech and incitement, and repeatedly rejected use of the words nationalism, populism, and xenophobia.”
According to Politico, Miller wrote speeches for candidate and President Trump, including his Republican National Convention speech and his inaugural address, though Trump claims he wrote them himself. Some analysts have said that Miller is “the Trump speechwriter whose own voice is closest to Trump’s.”
On July 15, 2019, President Trump made numerous remarks aimed at four congresswomen of color, stating, “They have to love our country,” and that the House members should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” During a July 21, 2019, Fox News interview with Chris Wallace, Miller was asked how President Trump’s past comments telling the congresswomen to “go back” to their countries of origin, could not be interpreted as racism. Miller responded that “the term ‘racist’ has become a label too often deployed by the left [and] Democrats to try to silence and punish and suppress people they disagree with.” Dr. Ibram Kendi, director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, explained that the President’s comments echo nativist tropes that immigrants should not challenge the status quo.
While at Duke University from 2003-2007, he wrote a biweekly column for Duke’s The Chronicle. In one article, he wrote that “Islamic terrorists…have declared a death sentence on every man, woman and child living in this country.”
As a college student in 2007, Miller was the first national coordinator of the Terrorism Awareness Project (TAP), a project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The PLC considers the Freedom Center an anti-Muslim hate group. Horowitz, the center’s head, has been a “friend” to Miller since 2001.
TAP described its mission as making “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.” Under Miller’s leadership, TAP organized and promoted “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” and ran an ad in Duke student newspaper, The Chronicle, that included phrases like “Jihad is…about the global rule of radical Islam.” Miller appeared on the program “Fox and Friends” to discuss TAP and its advertisement.
Richard Spencer, who leads the white nationalist National Policy Institute, claims he was a “mentor” to Miller, something Miller denies. According to Mother Jones, the two men collaborated to bring Peter Brimelow, a white nationalist voice, to a Duke University debate event in 2007. Spencer has said the “expression of religious and ethnic identities by non-Europeans” is leading to “moral and cultural bankruptcy” in the West. Miller said he “condemn[s]” Spencer’s “rancid ideology.”
Miller previously served as a press secretary for Representative Michele Bachmann, who often speaks of the “threat” of “radical Islam.” Miller was also the communications director for the then-Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. Sessions once warned of the “totalitarian threat” of “radical Islam.” The Atlantic reported that while he worked for Sessions, Miller collaborated with Breitbart and its former head, Steve Bannon.
Miller’s family and childhood friends have condemned his views and policies. In August 2018, Miller’s uncle wrote an essay describing how their ancestors fled Jewish pogroms in Belarus to arrive as refugees in the U.S. He wrote that he “shudder[s] at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses…been in effect.” Miller’s childhood rabbi condemned Miller as a “purveyor of violence, malice, and brutality.”
Updated October 22, 2019