Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center released an incredibly important report that seemed to fall under the radar as the media focused on details about the impeachment hearings. In the report, we learned that Katie McHugh – former editor of the alt-right Breitbart News publication – leaked over 900 emails that Stephen Miller sent to her while he was an aid to then Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and while he was Trump’s senior policy advisor leading up to the 2016 election. More than 80% of the emails referred to the topic of immigration or race.
According to SPLC: “When discussing crime, which he does scores of times, Miller focuses on offenses committed by nonwhites. On immigration, he touches solely on the perspective of severely limiting or ending nonwhite immigration to the United States.”
The emails include links to racist, anti-immigrant conspiracy theories from white nationalist website VDARE, a publication that focuses on the myth that nonwhite immigration and intermarriage will lead to “white genocide.” He also sent materials from American Renaissance, another white nationalist publication that centers on anti-black racism and eugenics-era immigration laws.
Additionally, Miller recommended that Breitbart would publish a story on the anti-immigrant novel The Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail, which uses extremely racist descriptions of nonwhite refugees and suggests that their “invasion” of France is the cause of the “end of the white world.” This has become a central book for white nationalists and their racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim beliefs and policies.
At Miller’s request, Julia Hahn – a then Breitbart editor and disciple of former White House strategist Steve Bannon – wrote the horrific article “’Camp of the Saints’ Seen Mirrored in Pope’s Message.” Taking Bannon’s views that the book is prophetic, Hahn compared Pope Francis with the pope in the novel.
“All around the world, events seem to be lining up with the predictions of the book,” Hahn wrote. “The novel features a new pope… who preaches ‘universal love’ and calls on the Western world to open its borders to the world’s migrants… Raspail argues that the inability of the Western conscience to erect walls, to ‘put her foot down,’ to turn people away, will lead to the undoing of Western civilization itself. As the world’s eyes turn to the U.S. arrival of the pope, many conservatives are arguing that Jean Raspail’s book has perhaps come to life.”
After Trump took office, Hahn followed Bannon from Breitbart to the White House and remained there – even after Bannon’s exit. With Miller’s help, her position expanded, and she took over as special assistant to the president when Kelly Sadler was removed from this position after she mocked Senator John McCain while his health was declining. Hahn’s responsibilities then included sending talking points to White House allies that aligned with Miller’s and Trump’s views on immigration policies.
It does not take a genius to figure out that Presidential advisor Stephen Miller and his advisees and allies are white nationalists. And while this knowledge is horrific in and of itself, what makes it even more terrifying is what Katie McHugh stated last week: “What Stephen Miller sent to me in those emails has become policy at the Trump administration.”
Now, those of us who have been paying any attention at all have already known this.
Threatening quota-driven raids and mass deportations. Announcing a travel ban from Muslim-majority countries. Holding asylum seekers in Mexico.
Family separations at the border. Children being detained in detention centers. Hurricane survivors being denied Temporary Protected Status.
Proposals to: end DACA, deny citizenship to immigrants utilizing government welfare programs, greatly increase citizenship application fees, drastically reduce the annual acceptance rates of refugees entering the United States… And the list goes on.
Stephen Miller’s white nationalistic views and policies even concerned many members of his family, so much so that in 2018, his uncle David Glosser wrote an online essay about the dangers of his nephews’ policies:
“I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, an educated man who is well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.
… Most damning is the administration’s evident intent to make policy that specifically disadvantages people based on their ethnicity, country of origin and religion. No matter what opinion is held about immigration, any government that specifically enacts law or policy on that basis must be recognized as a threat to all of us. Laws bereft of justice are the gateway to tyranny… Immigration reform is a complex issue that will require compassion and wisdom to bring the nation to a just solution, but the politicians who have based their political and professional identity on ethnic demonization and exclusion cannot be trusted to do so.”
In addition to all of this, as the president’s senior policy advisor and one of his speechwriters, Miller has shaped Trump’s messaging, which has created massive fears around immigration (esp. of Muslim and POC immigrants) and has sought to normalize white nationalist views, speech, and policies. Hence, it is likely that much of Trump’s talking points around immigration and race have been influenced by Miller’s white nationalist conspiracy theories and beliefs.
White Supremacy is in the White House. It runs deep and wide. And it must be shut down, dismantled, uprooted, and removed.
Many of us have been saying this for years. However, those who are spouting out and implementing white supremacist ideas and policies in the White House continue to be defended, and their policies “justified” by other national and religious leaders. Even after the emails were leaked last week, the White House is still backing Stephen Miller.
So let’s be loud and clear: it is incredibly dangerous and absolutely inexcusable for national or religious leaders to defend, downplay, or remain silent when our president and his advisors hold and enforce these white nationalist beliefs and policies. And it is incredibly dangerous and absolutely inexcusable for us to do so, as well.
As people of faith, we believe that God created ALL humankind good and in God’s image. God created ALL nations good. There are no “shithole” countries. And the United States is lucky to be made up of immigrants and refugees from all over the world who have different religious affiliations and who have made this country a better place.
Jesus – himself – was a Middle Eastern, brown-skinned, Palestinian Jew, who was born to immigrant parents seeking refuge in a foreign land in order to have a better life for their family.
And Jesus gave his disciples a strong warning:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me… Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me… [Yet], just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
You see, to deny immigrants and refugees asylum in the U.S. is to deny Jesus and his parents asylum.
To separate families at our border is to separate the holy family at the Egyptian border.
To traumatize children by placing them in detention centers is to traumatize the baby Jesus by placing him in a detention center.
To deport families back to the dangerous and/or poverty-stricken situations from which they fled is to deport Jesus’ family back to the dangerous and poverty-stricken situation from which they fled.
Under the oppressive Roman Empire, Jesus brought good news to the poor, proclaimed release to the captives, gave sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free, and he called his followers to do the same.
In yesterday’s lectionary Gospel reading, Jesus reminded his disciples that this was still their call, despite the fact that they would face persecution – even from their family members and friends. “For now is your opportunity to testify,” he told them.
And we hear Jesus saying this to all of us today, as well:
“Now is your opportunity to testify.”
Now is our opportunity to testify, no matter who might not like what we have to say. No matter who might get offended or pissed off.
As followers of Jesus, people of faith, and members of the human race, we have a responsibility to call out racist and Islamophobic stereotypes, words, actions, beliefs, and policies for what they are and to denounce them… even and especially if they are carried out by our national leaders.
This is not a partisan issue. This is not about a political party or a particular politician. This is about the evil and harmful sins of racism and white supremacy.
Because to be silent about such things is to be complicit. To ignore such statements and actions sends several strong messages to our Muslim, refugee, immigrant, and BIPOC siblings.
Our silence tells them that the hateful statements and beliefs of the President and his advisors are normal, are true, and thus can be continued.
Our silence tells them that not only are they not valued by their country and many of their country’s leaders, but that they are also not valued by us, by the Church, or even by God.
Our silence tells all of our siblings that some people – based on skin color, religion, and/or country of origin – are superior to others. It says that God does not actually care about the “least of these” and that people of faith should just ignore God’s call to welcome and care for the immigrant and refugee, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim God’s good news of justice and peace to the world.
So, let us break the silence. For, now is our opportunity to testify.
Please sign and share this petition that calls for Stephen Miller’s immediate resignation.
Rev. Emily Heitzman is an ordained Presbyterian (USA) pastor serving as the shared Pastor with Youth and Households at three ELCA congregations in the neighborhood of Edgewater in Chicago: Unity Lutheran, Ebenezer Lutheran, and Immanuel Lutheran. Some of her sermons and reflections can be found at Musings from a Bricolage.
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