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The Cruelty Is His Point


Two good stories about Stephen Miller, the guy directing immigration policy for the United States. Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey:

Last spring, with border crossings rising, Miller helped devise the “zero tolerance” prosecution effort with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Sessions adviser Gene Hamilton. Homeland Security officials and Health and Human Services scrambled to come up with a plan to implement the crackdown. During a span of six weeks, border agents took children away from migrant parents and sent the adults to court for prosecution. At least 2,600 families were separated until public outrage forced the president to back down.

Miller defended the separations and had encouraged the president to enact them — telling others in the West Wing they would prove to be a migration deterrent. Trump soon realized it was a “PR nightmare,” in the words of one senior administration official, and blamed Miller. The president also grew frustrated with Miller over the botched implementation of the travel ban in the first weeks of the administration.

Miller is among the few administration officials who continue to defend zero-tolerance separations today, insisting the approach would have worked if the policy had continued. 

Miller is obsessed, current and former administration officials said, with boosting deportations. Early in the tenure, he tried to persuade Kelly, as DHS chief, to deport anyone here illegally. Kelly wanted to focus on criminal felons, frustrating Miller, people familiar with the disagreement said.

“He is singularly focused on how to get people out of the country,” a former senior administration official said.

And Jason DeParle:

Still, Mr. Miller has left a big mark, in ways both obvious and obscure. After two highly publicized failures, he helped craft a travel ban that passed court muster. A fervent critic of refugee programs, he has helped cut annual admissions by about three-quarters since the end of the Obama administration.

Writing in Politico, his uncle, Dr. Glosser, expressed an “increasing horror” at his nephew’s hostility to refugees and noted that their ancestor, Wolf-Leib Glosser, arrived at Ellis Island after fleeing Russian pogroms. Had Mr. Miller’s policies prevailed then, he wrote, the Glossers probably “would have been murdered by the Nazis,” as most in their village were.

With less fanfare, Mr. Miller has guided a series of policy changes that critics liken to building an “invisible wall.” The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group, counted more than 100 of them, noting that “most have moved forward untouched.”

The Trump administration quadrupled the number of work site investigations. It slowed the processing of temporary H-1B visas. It imposed new performance measures on immigration judges, to encourage faster deportations.

Though Mr. Miller was often the driving force, many of these changes were longstanding goals of the restrictionist movement. “He comes from a community of people who’ve been working on this, some of them, since the ’90s,” said Roy Beck, the president of NumbersUSA.

Beyond the commas and clauses of government rules, Mr. Miller and Mr. Trump are trying to change something deeper: America’s self-conception as a land of immigrants. Mr. Trump is the son of an immigrant. Two of the three women he married are immigrants. Four of his five children have an immigrant parent. Yet his immigration agency rewrote its mission statement to remove the phrase “nation of immigrants.”

The cossacks are very much working for the Czar here: Miller is implementing Trump’s preferences. But he’s making sure it’s done in as evil a way as possible.

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