This administration’s white nationalist agenda doesn’t just harm immigrant communities; it harms our nation as a whole. It’s an assault on our shared values and history, and an attack against the country that recently granted my sister citizenship, and which gave me — the son of farmers who once lived in a one-room adobe house in Mexico — the opportunity to go to college and become a member of Congress for one of the most diverse communities in the nation.
Trump’s racist, anti-immigration agenda is personal for me; it should be personal for every person who takes pride in calling themselves an American. And it’s clearly being driven in larger part by one man, senior advisor Stephen Miller, who operates beyond Congressional oversight, because my Republican colleagues refuse to perform any.
A Democratic takeover in the House will finally give my colleagues and me the ability to leverage the Oversight Committee’s investigatory power, putting a bright hot spotlight on Miller’s crusade against immigrant communities. We’ll be able to determine how and why decisions are made, as well as the players behind them. More importantly, it’ll give us a fighting chance to push back against the hatred and xenophobia that defines Miller’s policies and those of this administration.
Get the think newsletter.
Miller has always seemingly had his sights on dismantling our immigration system: It was one of his goals as a staffer for Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., after which it was his goal as a policy advisory for then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and remains his top priority in the White House today. Since the election, President Trump has provided Miller a platform to pursue policies to militarize our borders and deport those who have made the United States their home as part of his so-called “America First” agenda.
Targeting undocumented immigrants represents just one facet of Miller’s role in executing the president’s vision. Another critical yet lesser-known component of their plan centers around a proposal known as the “public charge rule.” This effort would punish documented immigrants and jeopardize their ability to get green cards and residency visas if they, or their family, use — or are determined by immigration officials to likely use — benefits their tax dollars have supported, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Children's Health Insurance Program and federal housing and rental assistance.
Forcing families to reject life-saving services for themselves to potentially increase their chances of becoming citizens is the “Sophie’s Choice” scenario of Miller’s dreams. That’s probably why he’s furious at officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for not publishing and enforcing the proposal fast enough, ordering them to make it their first priority.
To Miller, immigrants are apparently “insurgents,” and his cruel policies and corrosive rhetoric clearly reflect that disdain, from spearheading executive orders banning foreign nationals and refugees from Muslim countries, to orchestrating the ongoing family separation crisis at the border with his zero-tolerance policy, to his fervent support for President Trump’s efforts to end birthright citizenship (a proposal he’s been forcefully pursuing since early 2016).
Changing the constitution to end birthright citizenship has long been an administration priority; Miller has described the centuries-old citizenship provision as “an open, worldwide invitation to ignore America’s immigration laws and an absolute perversion, misinterpretation, misapplication of the 14th Amendment.” (Constitutional scholars have widely rejected the idea that the president can eliminate the 14th Amendment.)
Earlier this year, while drafting an executive-level terrorism report with senior officials, Miller tried to include lies about children of foreign-born nationals, claiming they “were more likely than non-foreign-born nationals to commit acts of terrorism.” According to the Washington Post, even Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — who has been caught lying for the administration on multiple occasions — took issue putting her name on a report that included these blatant falsehoods. Her top aides reportedly rejected Miller’s efforts, citing “such language was not substantiated in fact and that a report would not go out from her agency claiming such.”
The narrative behind all of their anti-immigrant policies is as absurd as it is predictable: Immigrants are supposedly dangerous. It’s a lie they continually use to scare the electorate and push policies that will curb immigration until it no longer exists. And Miller is managing that misinformation campaign at the highest echelons of government, which already has an appalling track record of deception and manipulation.
For far too long, House Republicans have stood in the way of our shared constitutional obligation to serve as a check on this president and the Executive Branch. As the newest member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I’ve had a front row seat to a brazen and coordinated campaign of sabotage and obstructionism by those who have put President Trump’s interests before the people who elected them.
In addition to investigating the family separation crisis and the Muslim ban, Oversight Committee Democrats have requested consideration of subpoena motions on the administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census and reports of politicized hiring practices for immigration judges. Each request was denied, as were 61 other Democratic subpoena motions during the course of President Trump’s tenure. Our Republican counterparts — under the leadership of Chairman Trey Gowdy — have incapacitated the Oversight Committee, but that could all change after Tuesday’s election.
We finally have an opportunity to correct our country’s dark course, to provide light to those who have been forced into the shadows since President Trump assumed office. Voting is a chance for us to raise our collective voices in opposition to those who see our diversity as our downfall. Together, we can strip Miller and many in this administration of their unchecked power and put some portion of it back where it belongs: In the hands of the people.