- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
- Some are blaming “President” Stephen Miller for an inability to reach a deal to end the government shutdown.
- Miller, an immigration hawk, has come under fire from both Republicans and Democrats.
White House senior adviser Stephen Miller is taking heat from political observers who have accused him of being a leading force in preventing a compromise on immigration to end the government shutdown.
Some have even referred to the 32-year-old former Senate aide and immigration hardliner as “President Stephen Miller” for his outsized influence in the immigration debate.
Republican and Democratic leaders reached a deal Monday to end the shutdown after days of negotiations. At the center of the deal was an agreement to schedule a a vote on bipartisan immigration legislation – but no permanent solution on the issue.
NBC News reported that a Friday conversation between President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, with hopes of reaching a deal to avert a shutdown, was partially derailed by Miller, who pushed Trump away from an immigration compromise.
On Sunday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who alongside Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin had their immigration compromise rejected by the White House earlier this month, pointed to Miller as the reason a deal had not yet been reached.
“Every time we have a proposal, it is only yanked back by staff members,” he told reporters. “As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating on immigration, we are going nowhere.”
“He’s been an outlier for years,” Graham added.
Graham said Miller and others were responsible for the disagreement over how to move forward with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. The program protects from deportation immigrants who entered the country illegally as minors. It was rescinded by the Trump administration earlier this year, though a federal court provided an injunction which temporarily reinstated the program.
Miller, who for years was on the frontlines of the immigration battle representing hardline conservative interests, is, along with Trump, is pushing for revisions to the legal immigration system and funding for a massive wall along the US southern border as a part of any DACA agreement.
“The Stephen Miller approach to immigration has no viability,” Graham told MSNBC on Friday.
The White House has defended Miller from the attacks.
“I think that’s a sad and desperate attempt by a few people trying to tarnish a staffer,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday. “Look, Stephen’s not here to push his agenda. He’s here to push the president’s agenda like everybody in this building. We are doing our best to carry out what the president has laid out and to implement and communicate his principles and Stephen’s no different on that front than anyone else.”
Hogan Gidley, another White House spokesperson, decided to hit back at Graham using his own words.
“As long as Sen. Graham chooses to support legislation that sides with people in this country illegally and unlawfully instead of our own American citizens, we’re going nowhere,” Gidley told reporters Sunday. “He’s been an outlier for years.”
‘Any effort to kill immigration reform usually has Mr. Miller’s fingerprints on it’
A former aide to then-Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, Miller has for years cultivated his hardline immigration platform. High school classmates of Miller’s in California claimed he spoke disparagingly toward Spanish-speaking students. As a Duke University student, Miller wrote that “America without her culture is like a body without a soul-yet many of today’s youth see America as nothing but a meeting point for the cultures of other nations.”
“We must come to the defense of our heritage,” Miller wrote in the column, which discussed the international student presence on campus. “And for us, that fight begins right here, on our campus.”
“Never Trump” Republican strategist Rick Wilson wrote Sunday that “co-President Stephen Miller” placed “a Semtex charge under the tenuous DACA deal at the heart of this budget frenzy is a sign of his overwhelming power in this White House.”
“Miller’s racial obsessions with immigrants are playing out in a game of political chicken where five trains are racing toward one track in the switchyard of American politics,” he continued.
Democrats have zeroed in on Miller as well.
“Any effort to kill immigration reform usually has Mr. Miller’s fingerprints on it,” Durbin said earlier this month.