Why a second Trump term with Stephen Miller will be 'devastating' to American immigration

Justin Vallejo
·5 min read
En esta fotografía de archivo del 20 de agosto de 2020, Stephen Miller, asesor del presidente Donald Trump, habla durante una entrevista televisiva frente a la Casa Blanca, en Washington. (Foto/Patrick Semansky, archivo) (AP)
En esta fotografía de archivo del 20 de agosto de 2020, Stephen Miller, asesor del presidente Donald Trump, habla durante una entrevista televisiva frente a la Casa Blanca, en Washington. (Foto/Patrick Semansky, archivo) (AP)

Experts are sounding the alarm after White House adviser Stephen Miller revealed the Trump administration's hardline immigration agenda for a second term.

The agenda to limit asylum grants, outlaw sanctuary cities, expand travel bans, and reduce work visas are among the least politically damaging polices the administration will discuss before the election, according to Jean Guerrero, the author of the Stephen Miller biography Hatemonger.

Also said to be on the agenda is punishing "recalcitrant countries" that refuse to adhere to US immigration policy by cutting off green card processing, shutting down ports of entry, limiting birthright citizenship, making the US citizenship test more difficult, ending Temporary Protected Status, and slashing refugee admissions to zero.

"It would ultimately have some of the impact that he's hoping that it would have, which is a chilling effect on immigration and on people coming to the US to seek asylum, to seek refuge," Ms Guerrero told The Independent.

Mr Miller's overt plan, revealed in an NBC News interview, comes shortly after the newly-unmasked "Anonymous" White House official, Miles Taylor, suggested there was a covert agenda sketched out in a drawer full of executive orders ready to be signed in "shock and awe" style if Mr Trump is reelected.

Mr Taylor, the former Department of Homeland Security adviser who wrote the 2018 New York Times Op-Ed that suggested a "resistance" was working against the president's worst instincts, said on a Lincoln Project podcast that "a very senior adviser", which the hosts suggested was Mr Miller, felt like a bureaucratic "Bond villain".

 "He had a locked drawer that had executive orders that he'd worked on with the White House Counsel's office and a very small group of people, and they were things that were unacceptable to issue at a first presidential term because they knew they would lose voters because they would be so extreme," Mr Taylor said, pointing to immigration as an example.

“It’s all the crazy things they think they could get away with potentially legally but politically would be so unpalatable that the president would lose even core parts of his base of support.”

He should know. Mr Taylor helped shape the "Protecting the Children Narrative" of the Trump administration's family separation policies that left migrant children in cages at the US-Mexico border, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by BuzzFeed News.

Court-appointed lawyers are still unable to find the parents of 545 children first separated under the policy in 2017.

Based on conversations with several officials in direct contact with Mr Miller for her biography Hatemonger, author Ms Guerrero said that even more extreme immigration policies would follow if the Trump administration can install any of their planned executive actions.

"They already have denaturalization taskforces that they've created, and I think that that could get really serious where they would be stripping people of citizenship for things that are unthinkable right now, like errors in their applications," she said.

"And then there would be more waves of deportations of people who have lived in this country for a very long time and have established roots, and it would be pretty devastating."

In the near-term, immigration law expert Greg Siskind said that Mr Trump would need control of both the Senate and the House to pass the more extreme policies that "push the envelope" as Congress controls the funding for the agencies that would implement them.  

He said Temporary Protected Status, which protects people from deportation when there is a crisis in their country, and refugee admission are more under the control of the president's executive power.

"Birthright citizenship is a constitutional right and certainly not something that can be changed by a mere rule. And you can’t make changes to the citizenship process that are designed to make it more difficult to become a citizen without Congress passing something. The Constitution is pretty clear about that as well," Mr Siskind said.

"If Trump wins and keeps the Senate, then he can do more, obviously. But even so, the courts still can stop a lot and the Supreme Court is not always predictable."

With Temporary Protected Status and refugee admission the most likely immediate immigration measures of a second term, Mr Miller is publicly discussing agreements with Central American governments to stop what he calls "asylum fraud, asylum shopping and asylum abuse on a global scale”.

Mr Miller told the Associated Press that using the "Asylum Cooperative Agreements" struck in 2019 as models to get countries around the world to field asylum claims from people seeking refuge in the US would be a top priority for Mr Trump.

He said the administration would use its "full power, resources and authority" to launch an offensive against sanctuary cities, while vowing more focus would be placed on legal immigration "based on merit", a nod to the Australian-style points-based system where visa approval is based on education, wealth, employment, language and familial ties to the country.

The White House did not respond to questions on potential executive action regarding immigration when contacted this week.

In an investigation for the Southern Poverty Law Centre, writer Michael Edison Hayden obtained emails from White House deputy communications director Julia Hahn, from before she joined the administration, that showed her sharing views with Mr Miller over immigration policy.

The White House responded to that story saying the "cherry-picked emails were leaked by a troubled individual who was terminated from Breitbart in disgrace".

Mr Hayden told The Independent that the private correspondence, leaked by Ms Hahn's former Breitbart News editor Katie McHugh, gave insight into the thinking defined their views on immigration.

"If you read Miller's emails and if you read the type of publications he is reading and where he is gathering information from, there aren't any real limits to what they would be willing to do to reverse demographic trends in the United States," Mr Hayden said.

"They've not shown any reluctance to pursue ideas on immigration that would have been considered completely untouchable in previous years."

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