A cache of emails revealed this week in which White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, in the run-up to the 2016 election, shared articles and websites affiliated with white nationalism has disturbed officials working in the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department, who called the emails “sickening” and “proof” that Miller has been steering a racist immigration policy under President Trump.
The emails sent from Miller to editors of the far-right website Breitbart and obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center show Miller sharing a story from the white nationalist site VDare, pushing for Breitbart to write about a novel popular among white nationalists, and linking to a report detailing second-generation Muslims with the subject line “Huge Surge in US newborns named 'Mohammed.’”
The civil rights nonprofit said that after reviewing 900 emails, it was “unable to find any examples of Miller writing sympathetically or even in neutral tones about any person who is nonwhite or foreign-born.” In one such email chain, the SPLC said Miller directed Breitbart reporter Katie McHugh, who supplied the emails to the group, to aggregate information from American Renaissance, a white supremacist journal, for a story on crimes committed by nonwhite people.
“It’s sickening to know that someone with these viewpoints held a position of trust for a United States Senator," said one DHS official, referring to former senator and attorney general Jeff Sessions, "and now in the White House. Not that it wasn’t clear before — these emails just confirm what we all know. I’m disgusted that my venerable agency has turned into his personal tool for hate.”
BuzzFeed News spoke with nine DHS and DOJ officials for this story, all of whom requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
Miller’s influence in shaping a hardline immigration policy, including overhauling and restricting asylum to those seeking protection, is well known. Under the Trump administration, DHS has attempted to ban people from several Muslim-majority countries, bar asylum for those who traveled through Mexico or crossed the border without authorization, and force immigrants seeking protection to remain in Mexico for months while their cases proceed. At the same time, Trump has cut refugee levels to historically low numbers.
“Different people and different administrations can have different attitudes toward immigration, but to have someone with a vendetta against immigrants, and nonwhite immigrants in particular, in charge of this administration’s immigration agenda is beyond the pale,” said a DHS official.
A senior DHS official speaking about the emails said that “if true, he needs to go” and that regardless, “he should probably step down because his politics have become a distraction.”
Miller’s influence is part of a pattern within the administration of career officials and experts being “ignored while personal agendas are advanced,” a Justice Department official said.
“Cruel policies based on false ‘facts’ are replacing decades of progress,” said the official. “We career professionals see lasting damage if this continues unchecked.”
In an August email sent to all immigration court employees, the Justice Department included a link to an article posted on VDare’s website that attacked sitting immigration judges “with racial and ethnically tinged slurs,” drawing outrage from the judges and others. In the wake of the email, which was first reported by BuzzFeed News, the Justice Department decided not to renew its contract with the firm that provided the news summaries.
The report of the emails this week “grieved my heart and confirmed my fears that Stephen Miller has been given an enormous role in shaping immigration policy under the Trump administration and simply does not support the US treating all immigrants (and citizens for that matter) as equal,” said another DHS official. “His obvious disdain for minorities is apparent to anyone paying attention to the dismantling of the refugee program since Trump took office — a program that had bipartisan support before apparent white nationalists took the reins.”
Still, Miller has allies within the Department of Homeland Security who pushed back on the report and the emails.
“Miller has been under politically motivated attacks since day one of this administration by individuals and organizations opposed to the president’s policies in favor of open borders,” said one senior DHS official who supported Trump’s efforts to restrict immigration. “It’s incredibly unfortunate, yet not unexpected, that they would now seek to obstruct the administration’s historic progress containing the border crisis after months of humanitarian efforts and adherence to the rule of law.”
White House officials have also criticized the report, saying that Miller “hates bigotry in all forms,” while calling SPLC a “long-debunked far-left smear organization,” according to the Washington Post.
But to the individuals who have been tasked with carrying out policies at the border, the report was not overlooked. Asylum officers, whose jobs have been dramatically shifted under Trump and Miller’s direction, were dismayed.
“These emails are just further proof of Miller's racist policy. For example, Asylum Ban 2.0 [a policy that bars asylum for those who cross through Mexico] targeting only southern borderland entrants is clearly designed to limit only Central Americans, who Miller obviously views as undesirable,” said one officer.
Another asylum officer offered a similar sentiment.
“White supremacy is directing Trump’s Immigration policy,” the officer said. “It’s become something of a cliche to say that the Cruelty is the Point, but that is it.”
Despite the release of the emails, some within DHS feared it wouldn’t result in consequences for Miller.
“If the reasons for Miller's not being at the White House weren't already patently clear to anyone, I don't see how this is going to change any minds,” said one DHS official. “What would have spelled doom five years ago now has a news cycle of less than 24 hours.”