DISSENT: Stephen Miller’s white supremacy should alarm JAs


New Column
Part of a host of new editorial features funded by a grant from The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation, the Nichi Bei Weekly is proud to announce the launch of a new civil rights-oriented column, “Dissent,” written by New York-based ACLU attorney Carl Takei, a native of Sacramento, Calif.

The Washington Post recently described White House advisor Stephen Miller as “the singular force behind the Trump administration’s immigration agenda.”

Miller is the architect of both the Muslim ban and the cruel “zero tolerance” policy of separating migrant families at the border. He is also the policy mastermind behind subtler changes that have made it far harder for nonwhite people to legally enter the United States. These include undermining legal protections for refugees and asylum-seekers, setting arbitrary wealth-based requirements for green cards, and implementing a set of policy barriers that turn back families fleeing violent persecution and expose them to extortion, beatings, and rape by Mexican cartels. (In an Orwellian touch, the administration describes these barriers as “Migrant Protection Protocols.”)

What drives Miller to do this? In November, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a trove of Miller’s leaked e-mails that point to a clear answer: He is a white supremacist.

In his messages, Miller repeatedly embraces the language and ideas of the white nationalist movement. In one e-mail, Miller characterizes Pope Francis’ pro-refugee stance as having “parallels” to “Camp of the Saints,” a racist dystopian novel that is a staple in white nationalist circles. The novel — which styles itself a cautionary tale about the dangers of welcoming nonwhite immigrants — describes how a caravan of Indian refugees “occupies” Europe by having children and refusing to assimilate, which in turn leads to forced interracial cohabitation, intermarriage, and the fall of every European government except Switzerland. In another series of e-mails, Miller repeatedly uses coded language associated with the “great replacement” theory to describe rising nonwhite populations. This theory is another staple in white supremacist circles: the idea that white people will be “replaced” in America unless they block nonwhite immigration.

Miller’s racist fears are uncomfortably familiar. When lobbying to restrict Japanese immigration in the 1920s, Sacramento Bee publisher V.S. McClatchy made similar claims about Japanese immigrants: that they were unassimilable, and that their “astronomical birth rate” and “increased landholding” threatened Anglo-Saxon civilization. This racist agitation led to broad restrictions on Asian immigration and FBI surveillance of Japanese immigrant community leaders before the war — and laid the groundwork for Executive Order 9066.

Indeed, the historical figure most similar to Stephen Miller is Col. Karl Bendetsen, the wartime official who drafted Executive Order 9066, used bogus claims to push for the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during the war, and spent the last decade of his life fiercely opposing redress for Japanese Americans. As detailed in Jon Osaki’s recent documentary “Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066,” Bendetsen was the ideologue who ultimately convinced an indecisive Gen. John L. DeWitt to push forward with the race-based roundup of Japanese Americans. With DeWitt convinced, the two officials insisted to Secretary of War Henry Stimson that nobody of Japanese ancestry could be trusted, because “the Japanese race is an enemy race” and “the racial strains are undiluted” even among those born in America.

As with Col. Bendetsen, Miller’s own words make it easy to draw the line from this white supremacist philosophy to the extreme policies he pushes. In the more than 900 e-mails reviewed by SPLC staff, Miller exhibits a singular focus on ending or severely limiting nonwhite immigration to the United States. His messages frequently highlight crimes committed by nonwhite immigrants and nonwhite U.S. citizens descended from immigrants, while downplaying crimes committed by white people. He praises a right-wing reporter for writing that the 1965 law abolishing racial quotas in immigration had “ruinous” consequences for America.

In President Donald Trump, Stephen Miller has found a willing sponsor: the DeWitt to his Bendetsen. On the orders of these men, immigration officials have already torn thousands of children from the arms of their parents, launched raids in communities around the country, and locked more than 50,000 people in immigration jails. And Stephen Miller’s e-mails make clear that he wants to go even further, turning back the clock to the kinds of race-based immigration restrictions that V.S. McClatchy successfully lobbied Congress to adopt, and that were in place while Col. Bendetsen made the case for Japanese American concentration camps.

In the wake of the Miller e-mail revelations, many members of Congress are calling on the administration to fire Miller from his White House job. This would be an important first step. But we need to kick Miller’s racist ideas and policies to the curb along with him. As Japanese Americans, we need to raise our voices in solidarity with the communities that are under attack — and make clear that when history is repeating itself, we can’t just say shikata ga nai (it can’t be helped).

Carl Takei, a Yonsei, is a senior staff attorney at the ACLU, co-chair of Tsuru for Solidarity, and a board member for the New York Day of Remembrance Committee. He now coordinates the ACLU’s national strategy on police practices, and previously conducted ACLU litigation and advocacy on prison privatization and immigration detention. You can follow him on Twitter at @carltakei, or reach him at nichibei@carltakei.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly nor the ACLU.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *