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Douglas writes: "It is a deformity of the Trump presidency that Stephen Miller has the power that he currently wields."

Stephen Miller. (photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
Stephen Miller. (photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump Has Unleashed Stephen Miller to Inflict Horrors on Immigrants

By Lawrence Douglas, Guardian UK

11 April 19

In recent days, the president has given Miller power to oversee all matters involving border and immigration. The result will be disastrous

t is a deformity of the Trump presidency that Stephen Miller has the power that he currently wields. A little over a decade ago, Miller was writing vaguely obnoxious columns for the Duke student newspaper, complaining about the excesses of multiculturalism and identity politics. Now he is instrumental in transforming US immigration policy into a national disgrace, a cruel exercise in xenophobia.

Miller has emerged as the ultimate, Trump “survivor.” Having been with the president since the day he took office, Miller has managed to weather the periodic purges that have claimed an unprecedented number of senior White House officials and executive appointees. Far from simply surviving, Miller has thrived in the Trump White House.

In recent days, the president has given Miller power to oversee all matters involving border and immigration, and Miller has not been shy in its exercise. A shakeup in the leadership at the Department of Homeland Security has witnessed the departure of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and the abrupt withdrawal of the nomination of Ron Vitiello to become the next head of Customs and Border Enforcement.

Miller has been able to consolidate and expand his power because he is at once an extremely accomplished operator, able to successfully negotiate a highly toxic environment, and an ingratiating sycophant, who has mastered the art of telling his master what he wants to hear. If the president describes himself in a tweet as a certifiable genius, Miller can be counted on to go on national television to offer vociferous support of the truth of the description. Like a minister of propaganda, he is skilled at repeating, distilling and amplifying his master’s messages.

In this, he is an altogether different animal than a Steve Bannon, who helped advance Miller’s career, and with whom Miller drafted Trump’s apocalyptic inaugural address and the doomed early draft of the Muslim ban. With his deconstructionist fantasies, crusader mentality and Leninist impulses, Bannon was never going to last in the White House, his style more suited to a night of long knives than to an afternoon of quiet political jockeying.

Miller, by contrast, has no grand, burning vision. He is certainly an ideologue, but his ideology seems born of a pugilist glee in offending liberal sensibilities. He is more of a political tactician and infighter, and in that regard, arguably more dangerous than Bannon ever was.

And he is certain not to repeat the error of Bannon, who fell from favor by hogging the spotlight from a narcissistic and prickly president. Irritated that Miller might be seen as the wizard behind the curtain, Trump on Wednesday was quick to remind everyone, “There’s only one person running immigration policy in this administration…It’s me”—a statement that Miller immediately affirmed.

Alas, there is no denying the crisis on the southern border. It is estimated that as many as a million people will try to enter the United States through that border this year, many fleeing conditions of extreme poverty and violence. But rather than address this humanitarian crisis, the president and his trusted satrap seek only to exacerbate it for political gain.

Talk of closing the border may sell well to Trump’s base, as may the promise to cut aid to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the very countries whose desperate conditions are contributing to the crisis. But the threat of cuts and closures serve simply to increase the impulse to flee. Just as gun sales skyrocket in the wake of any news of possible regulation, the fear that the border will close has made the desire to come to the US only more urgent.

Trump and Miller’s answer to this crisis follow a familiar litany: close the Mexican border. Separate parents from their children. Cut off the dreamers’ pathway to citizenship. Bar refugees of violence from entering the United States. Limit public benefits for legal residents. Eliminate birthright citizenship.

These are cruel and indecent proposals that bring shame on our nation.

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