On July 15, 2015, Stephen Miller, at that time an aide to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, sent an email to Breitbart writer Katie McHugh with the subject line: “more lies about new america.” In the body of the email was a link to a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled, “The Mythical Connection Between Immigrants and Crime.”
In the piece, Jason L. Riley, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, points out that, contrary to the claims about immigrant crime being espoused by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose administration Miller now serves as senior policy adviser, “numerous studies going back more than a century have shown that immigrants — regardless of nationality or legal status — are less likely than the native population to commit violent crimes or to be incarcerated.”
That finding contradicts the message that was at the heart of Trump’s campaign and that Miller himself has advanced in the White House — that immigrants, especially from Mexico and Central America, are to be feared and shunned as criminals. And it undercuts a central feature of Trump’s immigration policy, also largely inspired by Miller, which is to discourage immigration by all means possible, including the forced separation of children from their parents at the border.
Miller’s email is one of several highlighted in the fourth installment of a series by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has analyzed more than 900 emails between Miller and editors at Breitbart News ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
The particular emails referenced in the SPCL reports were provided to Yahoo News for review. Among other things, they seem to offer new evidence of Miller’s well-established hard-line views that would eventually shape the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The piece published by the SPLC Monday focuses on Miller’s apparent fixation on and promotion of a widely debunked narrative about immigrants and violent crime.
Earlier releases showed how Miller dabbled in nationalist and white-supremacist ideology.
After dismissing as “lies” the conclusions of Riley’s op-ed, Miller subsequently pressed McHugh and others at Breitbart to devote more coverage to crimes committed by immigrants, particularly those of color, describing individual stories about alleged terror plots by Muslim refugees and arrests of immigrants from Latin America as evidence of larger trends resulting from lax immigration policies.
“It has never been easier in American history for illegal aliens to commit crimes of violence against Americans,” Miller declared in a message sent to McHugh from his Senate.gov email address on Jan. 5, 2016.
McHugh, who was fired by the right-wing website in 2017 for anti-Muslim tweets but says she has since renounced far-right ideology, leaked the trove of 900-plus emails to the SPLC.
McHugh told the SPLC that she was introduced to Miller by Breitbart editors in 2015 “with an understanding he would influence the direction of her reporting.” Many of the emails show how Miller not only suggested topics for Breitbart to cover, but in some cases dictated the specific framing, source material and even homepage placement of articles that later showed up on the website.
Miller joined Trump’s presidential campaign in January 2016 and as a senior White House policy adviser became known as the chief architect behind some of the administration’s most controversial policies, including a ban on travel from several majority-Muslim countries, separating migrant families at the border, and reducing refugee admissions to record low numbers. He advocated cracking down on illegal immigrants and imposing lower limits on legal immigration.
“What Stephen Miller sent to me in those emails has become policy at the Trump administration,” McHugh told the SPLC.
The first part of the series, which was published on Nov. 12, highlighted references in Miller’s emails to white nationalist websites like VDare, the French dystopian anti-Muslim novel “Camp of the Saints” and other materials, figures and language often associated with white nationalists and far-right extremism.
The SPLC writes that the emails “reveal Miller’s alignment with white nationalist thought and far-right extremism.” But some other experts say they don’t “reveal” much that wasn’t already known about Miller’s hard-line views.
“We all knew Miller was a nativist. I doubt he would even object to that description,” George Hawley, a political science professor at the University of Alabama and author of a book on the “alt-right,” told Yahoo News. “These revelations would have mattered a lot more three years ago, before he held an important position in the White House. At this point, his record is more significant than his earlier emails.”
Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, also expressed little surprise over Miller’s references to websites and literature “that feature anti-immigrant rhetoric,” given his well-established views on immigration.
“The SPLC report further exposes Miller’s xenophobia and reinforces how anti-immigrant views are key foundational elements of white supremacist ideology,” Segal told Yahoo News. “They feel threatened by demographic and cultural changes in the U.S. and blame immigrants for these changes.”
Others, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have pointed to the leaked emails as proof that Miller is a “white supremacist.” Ocasio-Cortez is among more than 80 members of Congress, and 20 senators, who’ve called for Miller to resign in response to the SPLC report.
The White House did not respond to Yahoo News’ request for comment on the emails or the calls for Miller’s resignation.
The unsubstantiated narrative about immigrant crime expressed in Miller’s emails to Breitbart, and echoed by Trump on the campaign trail, is regularly promoted by Trump and members of his administration as justification for various actions, from building a wall to ending protections for “Dreamers” to immigration raids targeting so-called sanctuary jurisdictions. Illustrating this, on Monday afternoon the Department of Homeland Security press office emailed reporters with the subject line: “Sanctuary County: Freed Illegal Alien Accused of Murdering 19-Year-Old Girl.” The body of the email contained a link to a Breitbart story.
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