Former Senior Policy Adviser to President Trump
Outside of former President Trump’s own family members, Stephen Miller remained one of the more constant figures in the Trump universe, joining the Trump campaign before the 2016 Iowa caucuses and serving as White House senior policy adviser for the entirety of Trump’s term in office. The lead architect of many of Trump’s immigration policies, Miller’s resilience in the administration was testament to Trump’s commitment to an extremely hawkish immigration policy.
Miller, who grew up in Santa Monica, California, went to Duke University before entering politics as the press secretary for Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and later Congressman John Shadegg — two lawmakers with very conservative records on immigration. In 2009, Miller joined then-Senator Jeff Sessions’s staff and later played a central role in Sessions’s opposition to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, a bipartisan piece of legislation that aimed to increase border security while also creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the country. Sessions and Miller led the ultimately successful effort to stop the bill on the premise that any pathway to citizenship would fundamentally hurt American workers.
Critics of Miller have asserted his immigration policies are motivated by racial antagonism. They point to interactions Miller allegedly had at Duke University with Richard Spencer, a white nationalist and leader of the alt-right (whom Miller has since denounced); more than two dozen columns Miller wrote for his college newspaper, including one that railed against multiculturalism; and a trove of Miller’s emails leaked by a Breitbart News editor that show an apparent affinity for ideas popular among white nationalists and praise for Camp of the Saints, a book known for its depiction of “white genocide.”
The Breitbart emails, released in 2019, were never disputed by the White House, where Miller continues to play a leading role in Trump’s immigration policy, including the travel ban for people from Muslim-majority countries, reducing the annual cap on refugees accepted into the country from 110,000 to 18,000, and the “zero tolerance” border security policy, which separates children from parents and mandates detention for everyone caught crossing the border illegally.
Though Miller remained central to Trump’s presidential decision-making, administration officials regularly leaked unflattering stories about Miller to the press, including allegations that he blocked the publication of internal Trump administration studies that showed refugees had a net positive effect on the national economy, and that Miller once told a White House colleague that he “would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.”
It remains to be seen what Miller’s post-White House career will look like, but those vying to carry Trumpism into the 2024 Republican presidential primary will likely consider making Miller a core part of their team.