Stephen Miller and I grew up in the same state. But when it comes to race, immigration and diversity, we live on different planets.
We’re both Californians who went to college on the East Coast.
The 34-year-old White House senior adviser, the chief architect of the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policy, probably couldn’t wait to flee this blue state. He likely believes that identity politics and left-wing ideology have driven it into the ground.
On the other hand, I couldn’t wait to come back. After four years in New England, I was homesick for the ethnic and cultural diversity California offers. I came home for good about 15 years ago, after plying my journalism trade at newspapers in Arizona and Texas.
Miller hails from Santa Monica—a wealthy, liberal, and mostly white enclave west of Los Angeles—where he grew up with a comfy upbringing, a short walk to the Pacific Ocean.
I hail from Sanger—a small farming town in Central California where Mexicans and Mexican-Americans made up two-thirds of the population and neighborhoods are surrounded by peach orchards and packing houses.
Miller thinks white people are being overrun by demographic changes, and that they are on the road to irrelevance unless someone stops the madness.
I look around and think that white folks are still doing pretty well after more than 50 years of affirmative action. They no longer control the whole pie, the way they used to. But they still have most of it. White folks are atop the leaderboard in the contest for the Democratic nomination, and in heavy rotation on the Sunday morning talk shows, where they don’t hesitate to speak for people of color.
Last but not least, Miller and I both think and write a lot about immigration. While my preferred mode of communication is a column, it turns out that Miller can write a mean email—and a racist one.
The immigration reform community is buzzing about a revelation that probably didn’t reveal all that much, at least not for those who pay attention to the immigration debate, and the attempts by Miller to pollute it with rank, old school nativism.
Rather, the news that Miller circulated white-nationalist materials to staffers at the rightwing website Breitbart in 2015 and 2016 merely confirmed what many of us have been saying for as long, namely that this guy is a racist, a nativist, and a white supremacist.
Still, it took me a while to get my head around the idea that staffers at Breitbart would need anyone to school them on white nationalism. Given the sort of stuff that appears on that website as it is, they would have found their way to that filth on their own. It was perhaps because he considered these folks to be like-minded that Miller was so uninhibited in pushing out material that most Americans would find horrific.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which got its hands on more than 900 of Miller’s emails, more than 80 percent of the stash “relate to or appear on threads relating to the subjects of race or immigration.”
Miller pushed links from the white supremacist site VDARE, articles about a supposed “white genocide,” and touted a French novel, The Camp of Saints, that is popular with white nationalists and Neo-Nazis.
Miller thinks immigration is an overall negative, a plague to be cured with the antibiotic of strong executive action and harsh enforcement. The way he sees it, immigration—both legal and illegal—harms the United States because it introduces Third World values, leads to overcrowding, strains social services, costs jobs, lowers wages, erodes national identity, threatens the English language and otherwise ruins a perfectly good country.
I think immigration is the very best thing about America—and that without it we might as well close up shop, rename the place, and re-open as “Sweden” or “Denmark.”
My dad—who was born in the United States, like his mother, and whose father came legally from Mexico during the Mexican Revolution of the early 1900s—was a cop for 37 years. I don’t need lectures from nativists on the importance of law and order.
But legal immigrants are the country’s most precious import. Whether they come from Brazil or Bangladesh or Bahrain, they bring a ferocious work ethic, undying optimism, fresh blood, and the kind of can-do spirit that puts a country on top—and keeps it there.
The story about Miller pushing racist poison came as no surprise to Jean Guerrero, a San Diego-based investigative journalist and author of a forthcoming biography of Miller to be published in May 2020.
“The emails are consistent with my reporting for the book,” Guerrero told me. “They suggest that underneath the Trump administration's border security policies is a white nationalist agenda. Contrary to popular belief, those policies have not focused on illegal immigration or drug traffickers, but on reducing the legal flows of non-white foreigners to the United States.”
She points out that Miller was behind the administration’s decision to slash refugee admissions from mostly African nations and choke off Central American access to US asylum. He also reportedly had, along with then- Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a hand in shaping the atrocious policy of family separation for refugees that essentially turned Uncle Sam into a kidnapper with as many as 69,550 migrant children held in U.S. custody over the past year, according to the Associated Press.
I think most Americans know that immigrants are a net positive to our country, and they always have been. It’s why so many of us get teary-eyed when we recall the sacrifices and struggles of our own immigrant ancestors. The problem is that pride, ignorance, or a combination of both stops too many of us from connecting what the were like and what they went through back when with the immigrants arriving now and what they’re experiencing.
We could make that connection if not for three things: fear, change, and competition. We fear the unknown. We dread change. And we don’t welcome competition. Immigrants represent all three, and so their continued arrival on our shores brings a fair amount of anxiety—whether they come legally, illegally, or with a letter of recommendation from the Queen of England.
It’s that anxiety that gives Miller his power. He knows it’s there, and he taps into it with every idiotic and inhumane policy idea. His goal is clear—and now out in the open for all to see: to bleach the U.S. population, and make America white again.
That may be evil, but it is also Miller's endgame. And we can't let him get away with it, or pretend we didn’t know what he was up to all along.