— The Hill (@thehill) January 21, 2018
Imagine lucking into position of immense power for reasons unrelated to any personal merit & choosing to wield it to hurt vulnerable people. https://t.co/fWTDtSvWXb
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) October 14, 2017
Never found the space to post this link when it came out last October, but the GOP shutdown “impasse” means Stephen Miller is in the spotlight again. Jonathan Blitzer, at the
In 1980, the year that Congress passed the Refugee Act, the U.S. accepted more than two hundred thousand refugees. The law created a robust program for accepting people who had been displaced by war and strife, and made refugee policy a new tool of American foreign policy, improving the country’s standing with foreign allies and helping the military and intelligence communities find partners in conflict zones. Since then, the mandated refugee “cap” set by the President has fluctuated; during the Obama Administration, it averaged seventy-six thousand, and, in 2017, Obama raised the cap to a hundred and ten thousand to allow in more Syrians fleeing civil war. Then came Donald Trump. In January, he signed an executive order temporarily freezing the refugee program, barring all Syrians, and slashing the number of refugees allowed into the country for the remainder of the year. Late last month, the White House announced that next year’s cap would be forty-five thousand, a record low. The State Department, the Defense Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Vice-President, and the Office of Management and Budget had wanted the number to be higher. But they had all been forced to compete with one influential White House official: Stephen Miller, the thirty-two-year-old former aide to Jeff Sessions who has become Trump’s top immigration adviser…
Miller, who has gone from the political fringe to the White House on the strength of his reputation as an anti-immigration ideas man, joined the Trump campaign early. He is close to both the President and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and has had a direct hand in several of the Administration’s most significant immigration decisions, including the travel bans and the cancellation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). “He’s been thoughtful and low-key about overtaking the policy-making process,” one White House official told me. “That’s the reason he survived.”
The chain of events that led to the announcement of the new refugee cap began on June 5th, when Miller met with officials from the State Department, the National Security Council, the Department of Homeland Security, and a policy group called the Homeland Security Council. Every summer, the State Department and the N.S.C. lead a series of discussions to decide the next year’s cap. Officials weigh dozens of different considerations, solicit input from the various stakeholder agencies, and ultimately bring a number to the President for his approval. The process is technical and exacting, a months-long slog through meetings, position papers, and constant recalibrations. Miller’s presence at the June 5th meeting itself was unusual: he heads the Domestic Policy Council, a body staffed by political appointees, which had never before played a role in refugee policy.
“We know how this used to go in the past,” he told the officials in the room. “But we also know that the President views this as a homeland-security issue.” Everyone understood the significance of Miller’s words. “Miller basically made clear that it was not going to be looked at from the typical lens of foreign policy,” a second White House official told me. “It was a domestic-policy issue, an immigration issue. The Department of Homeland Security was going to get involved.”…
When evidence emerged that didn’t suit Miller’s aims, he squelched it. In March, the White House had asked the Department of Health and Human Services to study the costs of refugee resettlement. The department returned with a study, in July, showing that the revenue generated by refugees in the form of local, state, and federal taxes exceeded the costs of resettling them by sixty-three billion dollars. According to the Times, Miller suppressed the study and demanded that H.H.S. recalculate the numbers. Two of the White House officials told me they’d heard that Miller had given H.H.S. strict instructions at the outset. “The President believes refugees cost more, and the results of this study shouldn’t embarrass the President,” he had told people at the agency. (The White House denied that Miller was involved with the H.H.S. report.)…
I asked the officials how Miller, with his limited experience in the executive branch, had become such a formidable bureaucrat so quickly. “Look at who the senior advisers to the President were and are—Bannon, Kushner—Miller’s the only one with prior government experience,” the State Department official told me. “He knows something about government, and it turns out to be useful. He saw how the sausage was made. And he’s smart enough to make his own sausage.” The chaos of the Trump Administration helped. “The White House remains in utter disarray,” the official said. “If you don’t have an established set of procedures in place, it’s very easy to create your own process.”…
In early September, officials at the State Department and N.S.C. were told that the Department of Homeland Security was ready to propose to the President that next year’s refugee cap be between fifteen thousand and twenty-six thousand people. Officials at the other government agencies involved in the process balked. “If we go below fifty thousand, we won’t satisfy the optics that the program was designed to generate, and that functionally hurts national security,” one White House official told me. “We look scared.” Miller and Hamilton weren’t swayed by the arguments, but when Elaine Duke, the interim Secretary of Homeland Security and Hamilton’s boss, insisted that the number couldn’t be lower than forty thousand, they were forced to retreat. (The White House disputed this account.)
Putting up a modest resistance, the State Department proposed a cap of fifty thousand. “People felt beleaguered and betrayed,” the official there told me. Trump’s original travel ban, in February, had set fifty thousand as a provisional cap for the current fiscal year. “It was seen as a politically safe number to use absent help from the Secretary.” Several other agencies—including, notably, the Office of the Vice-President—formally registered support for the State Department’s number. But in making the discussion about the range between forty thousand and fifty thousand, Miller had already succeeded in shifting the debate. “By the time we talked about splitting the difference, we were already two-thirds lower than where we were previously,” the State Department official told me. “We’d gone from a hundred and ten thousand”—which President Obama had set for the current year—“to around forty thousand, with no evidence to support the decision. It was purely political. The process has never been this corrupt.”
In mid-September, Tillerson lowered the State Department’s desired number from fifty thousand to forty-five thousand. The State Department official said the Secretary’s staff was surprised. “He undercut his deputy,” the official said. “He undercut the recommendation of the staff. He broke with every other federal agency except D.H.S.” The other agencies had all previously said they would back the State Department, so forty-five thousand was the only number that went to the President. “The President would never know that almost all of his Cabinet wanted a higher number,” one of the White House officials told me.
One of the White House officials I spoke to described the process as a harbinger of how immigration issues will be handled in the future. “The Domestic Policy Council is going to influence other processes that involve immigration,” the official said. “It’s going to get worse and worse.” Miller was expanding his influence. “He’s figured out early on that, just being at the D.P.C., he’s not going to be able to make key decisions unless he co-opts the N.S.C.,” the official went on. “He needs the security element attached to it. He’s worked to get himself in traditional N.S.C. decisions so that he can say, ‘This isn’t just me. We ran this by the N.S.C.’ It started with one or two issues. But it’s becoming anything that has to do with refugees, vetting, immigration, or security. Because he’s an assistant to the President, what person is going to say to him, ‘No, you can’t sit in on my meeting.’ The reason Stephen Miller is so dangerous? He’s clearly got a vision. He knows about narrative, about messaging. He’s figuring this out.”
Fuck everyone who abets this petty, cruel fecal stain of hatred and insecurity. And all the tick-faced sycophants he surrounds himself with.
— Zedward Tweeterhands (@ZeddRebel) October 13, 2017
That anti-immigrant white nationalist responsible for the closing of the Statue of Liberty feeling. pic.twitter.com/SKOLzJ76nH
— Schooley (@Rschooley) January 21, 2018