President Donald Trump is trying to keep his promised border wall with Mexico in the public eye during his reelection bid, touting it on his recent trip to Yuma, Arizona.
But the wall brought Trump unwanted attention last Thursday when former White House adviser Steve Bannon was arrested on charges that he and three associates ripped off donors to an online fundraising effort that aimed to build a privately funded barrier.
Trump distanced himself from Bannon while claiming he knew nothing about the project and never supported it. The administration says it built 245 miles as of July 17 and is holding tight to the president's promise to have 450 miles complete by the end of this year. It said in mid-July that 332 miles were in various phases of construction.
The Southern border wall is the symbol of Trump’s immigration policy. In her new book, “Hatemonger,” investigate reporter Jean Guerrero focuses on White House adviser Stephen Miller for pushing Trump to implement policies that have impacted people’s lives in ways that are far less visible than the wall.
Marco Werman: Pretty much every headline that we’ve seen in recent years about limits to immigration that has lawyers and judges scrambling, would you say that’s all the intellectual authorship of Stephen Miller?
Jean Guerrero: Absolutely. Before Stephen Miller joined Trump's campaign in 2016, Trump's only real immigration proposal was the border wall. Immigration restrictionists who had been following this issue for a very long time and wanted to see lower levels of immigration, they kind of just rolled their eyes at that. They knew that the United States had had hundreds of border barriers since the 1990s and that it hadn't done very much to decrease overall flows of immigration. And it wasn't until Stephen Miller came onto his campaign and started pulling policy ideas directly from think tanks funded by eugenicists and white supremacists who believe in population control for nonwhite people that he started to bring to the table ways to decrease overall immigration.
And few inside the Trump administration seemed to question, at least publicly, Miller's role as this architect of the president's restrictive immigration policies. Miller's clearly powerful. So, how do you see Stephen Miller shaping the president's current reelection strategy?
Right now, he's responsible for a reelection strategy revolving around the demonization of the entire Democratic Party as an existential threat to civilization. This is something that comes from Stephen Miller's white supremacist readings. This idea that liberals and people who partner with immigrants and with people of color pose some kind of threat to the nature of Western civilization as we know it.
And you see the language that Trump is using right now, talking about "anarchists and agitators" who want to "destroy America," talking about an "unhinged left-wing mob," talking about "far-left fascism." This is all language that Stephen Miller is inserting into Trump's speeches, which he is pulling from his white supremacist readings like this book called "The Camp of the Saints," which is a neo-Nazi read that talks about the destruction of the white world by agitators and anarchists and mobs, anti-racists who partner up with people of color.
We see lots of images and references to kids in cages. I mean, some of the most upsetting things to come out of White House policy. But how do you view those images, like the roots and origins of those images? Do you lay it all at Stephen Miller's doorstep?
The crackdown on immigrants that we see today is largely the logical outcome of a bipartisan assault on immigration that we've been seeing in the United States for decades. Under the Obama administration, we saw record deportations and you saw family separations with fathers getting separated from their families. The thing about Stephen Miller and what makes him so extreme and so different from everything that we've seen before is that he is fundamentally motivated by this desire to maintain a white majority in the United States.
He would deny that. But when you look at everything that he is pulling his policy ideas from and his affinity for white supremacists and white nationalist literature, you recognize that ultimately, this is his goal. And this is why with Stephen Miller at the helm of immigration policy under the Trump administration, we have seen a disproportionate impact on families who have broken no laws.
What has Miller not checked off his to-do list that you would expect will materialize if Trump wins a second term?
There is a blueprint for immigration policy that was issued by the Federation for American Immigration Reform in November of 2016. This is a think tank that was funded by John Tanton, a eugenicist who believes in population control for nonwhite people. And Stephen Miller has checked off nearly everything on that list except for one thing, and that is eliminating birthright citizenship. If we see a second term, this is absolutely going to be a focus of the Trump administration.
If there is a new administration come January next year, how much of what Miller has pushed through so far is reversible?
Many of the executive orders that were issued in January of 2017, which expand border control and its ability to keep people detained regardless of whether they've committed any crimes and expanded their ability to deport people, you know, even if they're children, these are all things that can be revoked. And you can start to change the way that Border Patrol and ICE treat people who have broken no laws pretty quickly.
The thing that is going to be a lot more difficult is rebuilding the refugee admissions system, not only in infrastructure but also in reputation. For decades, the United States was seen as a beacon of hope and refuge across the world. And Stephen Miller has deliberately destroyed that reputation and also attacked the infrastructure that's in place that was easy to destroy but is not going to be easy to rebuild. Entire offices that were closed across the world and employees that need to be rehired. That is going to take a very long time to restart.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
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