It wasn't the content of White House adviser Stephen Miller’s leaked emails that shocked Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from El Paso, Texas, but the silence of her Republican colleagues that has followed.
Miller is the architect of President Donald Trump's hardline immigration policies that have separated children from parents, forced people seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico under squalid conditions, instituted the Muslim ban and poured money from the military into border wall construction. The administration is currently under fire for the deaths of migrant children and teens who have died while in government custody.
In a trove of emails provided to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, Miller cited and promoted white nationalist ideologies of white genocide, immigrants as criminals and eugenics, all of which were once considered fringe and extreme. White nationalists embrace white supremacist and white separatist views.
Three weeks after the emails were made public, Miller still is in the White House. Only Democrats have called on the White House to rid itself of white nationalism.
“It really has been jarring (that) the president’s enablers and Republicans have not stood up and said, Mr. President, this is unacceptable,” Escobar said in an interview. “I would implore my Republican colleagues to join us in calling for Stephen Miller’s resignation,” she said.
MIller's ideology has wide reach, consequences
Escobar represents El Paso, where a gunman opened fire in a Walmart on Aug. 3, killing 22 people and injuring 26.
Police have said the suspect in the El Paso shootings told them his target was “Mexicans.” They also said he posted an anti-immigrant, anti-Latino screed that stated the attack was a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas." Some of the language in the screed is considered similar to words used by the president and state leaders.
After the shootings, Trump condemned white supremacy and said “hate has no place in America" but did not mention that Latinos were targeted or that the victims were predominantly Latino in his speech.
Miller is more than helping reshape immigration policy.
With Miller's assistance, the administration is "doing an end run around Congress to dismantle every aspect of the immigration system" through executive actions and gutting regulations and replacing them with their own, said Doug Rand, an immigration policy adviser in the Obama White House and cofounder of Boundless Immigration, which uses technology to help immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship.
"Believe it or not, it's possible to be to the right of President Trump on immigration, and that's where Stephen Miller has spent his whole career," Rand said. "He idealizes the 1924 law that banned immigrants from just about everywhere but Western Europe, and he is pulling every lever he can find throughout the federal government to accomplish the same outcome."
Escobar has asked the Department of Homeland Security to audit its policies to determine which were influenced by Miller "to show the motivations of the administration's immigration policies and shed light on the people that help craft them."
Separately, 107 members of Congress signed a letter to Trump demanding he fire Miler.
"A documented white nationalist has no place in any administration, and especially not in such an influential position," the Democratic congressional members said in the letter.
There also are several petitions calling for Miller’s resignation, including one started by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that had more than 130,000 signatures as of this week.
Miller previously worked for former Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. — who served as Trump’s first attorney general — before joining the Trump campaign.
More tolerance for intolerance?
That he persists reflects a change in what the country and political leaders are willing to tolerate under a Trump administration.
At the start of the year, House Republicans removed Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, from committee assignments after he said in an interview with The New York Times: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
When he said in 2013 that young immigrants had calves the size of cantaloupes, King drew condemnation from throughout the party, including from Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and former Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Florida Republicans. King has been repeatedly re-elected and is a Trump ally.
Diaz-Balart, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the three most senior Latino Republicans in Congress, either didn’t respond or declined to comment on the calls for Miller’s resignation.
Rubio and Diaz-Balart, both from immigrant families, have a moderate record on immigration. Miller even targeted Rubio in emails to get negative stories written about him by Breitbart. Rubio's response has been that he knew Miller wasn't a fan of his immigration policies.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment. The White House has defended Miller in previous statements to media, raising Miller’s Jewish background in that defense.
Ocasio-Cortez dismissed that defense in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes saying "the color of your skin and the identity you are born with does not absolve you of moral wrong."
"I don't think any public servant should weaponize their identity in order to advance white nationalist ideas. Period. Punto. I don't care who you are," Ocasio-Cortez said. Having Miller at the helm of U.S. immigration policy means policies “will become more fascistic and we cannot allow that to be us," she said.
A rise in violent, white supremacist extremism
In his emails, Miller makes clear the esteem he holds for another period in the country, when President Calvin Coolidge signed the Immigration Act of 1924 that severely restricted immigration from certain parts of the world. Coolidge is admired by white nationalists, according to the SPLC.
The act was the nation's first comprehensive restrictive immigration policy that established the Border Patrol.
After being told that Fox radio host Mark Levin has said there should be no immigration for several years "for assimilation purposes," Miller responds:
"Like Coolidge did. Kellyanne Conway poll says that is exactly what most Americans want after 40 years of non-stop record arrivals," according to emails posted by SPLC. Conway is an adviser to Trump.
In referencing the 1924 act, Miller is "harkening to an era of racial violence," said Monica Muñoz Martinez, author of "The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas."
FBI statistics released in November showed an increase in hate crimes and violence against Latinos.
In a September report, the Department of Homeland Security said while the country still faces threats from foreign terrorist organizations, “unfortunately, the severity and number of domestic threats have also grown.”
The agency said there has been a “concerning” rise in attacks by people motivated by racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism, including white supremacist violent extremism, anti-government and anti-authority violent extremism and other ideologies.
White supremacist violent extremists can generally be characterized by hatred for immigrants and ethnic minorities, often combining these prejudices with virulent anti-Semitism or anti-Muslim views, the DHS report states.
In a Sept. 6, 2015, email, Miller suggested Breitbart write about “The Camp of the Saints,” SPLC reported. The novel's theme is the end of white civilization by migrants who arrive from India.
Kathleen Belew, an expert on the white-power movement, said in an interview with NPR that Miller’s citation of the book is “clear evidence that this is a person who is immersed in trafficking in white nationalist ideology.”
“Voters across the country, constituents across the country who see their leaders standing in silence in the face of unprecedented racism and bigotry at the highest levels of government in our generation, they need to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves: Is this acceptable?” Escobar said.