IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Why would the GOP seek Stephen Miller's guidance on immigration?

As Congress prepares to tackle immigration reform, the Republican Study Committee wanted to hear from one of Team Trump's most notorious hardline voices.
Image: Stephen Miller
White House senior advisor Stephen Miller listens as President Donald Trump hosts a law enforcement briefing in the Oval Office at the White House on July 15, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters file

Former White House aide Stephen Miller was on Capitol Hill yesterday, and according to a Politico report, he had "a lively exchange" with Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), a first-year congresswoman from a diverse Miami district.

The confrontation came during the end of Miller's presentation before the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus within the House GOP. Miller, the architect of Donald Trump's hard-line immigration policies, such as the separation of migrant families at the border, addressed the group alongside another former Trump administration immigration official. Sources say the Floridian Salazar pushed for immigration policies that would broaden the GOP tent while challenging Miller on how Republicans can attract Latino voters given the ultraconservative policies he is advocating.

The dispute appeared to raise some intra-party eyebrows, with Salazar making the case for Republican moderation on immigration -- in part to prevent the party from driving away Latino voters -- while Miller said what he always says.

And on the surface, the "lively exchange" helped capture an ongoing disagreement in GOP circles, which has existed for many years. But just below the surface, there's a more salient point: the fact that the Republican Study Committee chose to invite Miller to Capitol Hill, deliberately seeking out his guidance, should remind Salazar and her allies that their side appears to have already lost.

In case anyone needs a refresher, the New York Times highlighted a series of incidents two years ago in which Miller, ostensibly speaking on Donald Trump's behalf, demanded administration officials do more to deny welfare benefits to legal immigrants, work around court-ordered protections for migrant children, and make the review process more difficult for those seeking asylum.

Trump political appointees -- not career officials -- pushed back against the Miller policies they considered "legally questionable, impractical, unethical or unreasonable." The article added that there was one particular meeting in which officials at Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) were on the receiving end of a Miller tirade and believed "it was almost as if Mr. Miller wanted asylum officers to ignore the law."

It led the Washington Post's Greg Sargent to describe Miller as "one of the leading figures pushing the Trump administration toward increasing venality, corruption and lawlessness."

As Congress prepares to consider a Democratic immigration reform proposal, the far-right Republican Study Committee -- home to nearly three-quarters of the House GOP conference -- wanted to hear directly from one of Team Trump's most notorious hardline voices on immigration policy.

It suggests the lesson Republican lawmakers took from the Trump era is to be more like him and follow the example set by the former president and his team.

The problem isn't that Maria Elvira Salazar confronted Miller; the problem is that Maria Elvira Salazar's party has largely decided that Miller is right and she's wrong.