In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge approved an immigration law that effectively banned immigrants from Asia and imposed strict limits on Italians, Jews, Poles, and others from outside northwestern Europe. In 2015, an aide who would become one of President Donald Trump’s key immigration advisers advocated doing the same.
In an email to a former Breitbart reporter published by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Stephen Miller endorsed the idea of limiting immigration “like Coolidge did. Kellyanne Conway poll says that is exactly what most Americans want after 40 years of non-stop record arrivals.” The email was one of 900 that Katie McHugh, a former white nationalist, gave SPLC. She and Miller exchanged the messages from March 2015 to June 2016 while she worked as an editor for Breitbart. Eighty percent of their emails, many discussing story ideas and potential sources, focus on either race or immigration.
Since the SPLC report came out Nov. 12, more than 80 Democratic lawmakers, a coalition of 55 civil rights groups, and three Democratic presidential candidates have called for Miller to resign from the White House. Leaders of the congressional caucuses representing Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian-Pacific groups, along with others, said in a joint statement that Miller “espoused white nationalist beliefs and vilified communities of color and immigrants.” A conservative columnist, Tiana Lowe at The Washington Examiner opined that it’s “long past time for Trump to dump Miller.”
Neither Miller nor the White House has denied the contents of the emails. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said she was not familiar with the contents of the investigation and called the SPLC a “discredited” organization that is “beneath the public discussion.” SPLC has a track record of unfairly vilifying Christian and conservative organizations by labeling them hate groups for having Biblical views about marriage and sexuality.
According to the emails, Miller encouraged McHugh to write articles correlating race and crime, asking her whether she had read an American Renaissance article noting the Department of Justice had “finally” included Hispanics in an offender category in statistics on race and crime. American Renaissance and another website he sent her links from, VDare, promote white nationalist views. Jared Taylor, the editor of American Renaissance, is a self-described “white advocate” who has said that “the races are not identical and equivalent.”
In another email, Miller discussed the race of Chris Harper-Mercer, a student who killed nine people in a Roseburg, Ore., school shooting Oct. 1, 2015.“[Harper-Mercer] is described as ‘mixed race’ and born in England. Any chance of piecing that profile together more, or will it all be covered up?” Miller wrote.
Bart Barber, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, and a signatory of the Evangelical Immigration Table’s call for restitution-based immigration reform, warned that such views contradict the gospel. In particular, Barber said, the “idea of a correspondence between race and crime, or national origin and crime,” contradicts a Biblical understanding that sin is common to all since the fall of Adam and Eve.
“A narrative that says, here are white Americans, you don’t have to worry about them, they don’t commit crimes, but here are Hispanic immigrants, or here are African Americans—these are the folks you have to worry about … that’s something that’s different from what Bible says about who human beings are,” Barber said.
The Washington Post interviewed more than 20 administration officials who had worked with Miller to confirm his role as a chief architect of the Trump administration’s immigration policy. Miller influenced the rule restricting immigrants likely to become a public charge, the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, and the separation policy for families that crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.
He is also credited with killing negotiations for a bill that would build a border wall in exchange for protecting 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. His involvement in congressional negotiations prompted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to say at the time that, “as long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we are going nowhere.”
Miller also reportedly told another staffer he would “be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched American soil.” During the Trump administration, refugee admissions to the United States have fallen to the lowest level since the Refugee Act of 1980.
Jerry Kammer, a senior fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors heavy restrictions on immigration, has expressed concerns about the ideology behind some of Miller’s ideas. “I think Stephen Miller has taken legitimate concerns about immigration to illegitimate extremes when he ties it to ethnicity and nationality,” Kammer told The New York Times.
“Any appeal that Stephen Miller makes to exclusion of immigrants and refugees that might be based on ethnicity or race or nationality would be considered illegitimate by Scripture and should be rejected by Christians,” said Alan Cross, a writer and former pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Alabama for 20 years. “How we deal with immigration reform and border security is important and valid … but it should not be motivated by racial or ethnic animus.”
Miller has weathered calls for his resignation in the past from both Republicans and Democrats. In light of this latest controversy, Barber urged Christians to consider ways they can urge the administration to lessen the influence of Miller on policy-making.
“We have a responsibility to do that according to our Biblical convictions,” Barber said. “I think that if we recognize the fact there are other voices trying to get the president’s attention, that should make us all the more determined to seek his attention as we appeal to him to adopt common-sense policies with regards to immigration. We need to put in more effort to counter this point of view and make it clear it’s really not compatible with evangelical Christian theology.”