Coming to America: White House aide Stephen Miller lobbies for lower immigration numbers

August 6, 2018

Folks on the Beltway are wondering just how low the POTUS can go, in more ways than one: President Donald Trump last year advocated dropping the refugee cap as low as 5,000 people, down from 50,000, according to a former administration official— a cut far deeper than even his most hawkish adviser, Stephen Miller, proposed at the time, Politico reported on August 2.

Ultimately, the political news outlet said, the administration restricted to 45,000 the flow of refugees into the United States, this fiscal year—representing the nadir since the program began in 1980, and less than half the target of 110,000 that President Barack Obama set in his last planning cycle.

But that was then. Now, Miller and a group of like-minded aides are lobbying Trump to markedly reduce the number of people entering America, as both legal and illegal immigrants, Politico says.

Despite the blowback that they—and Attorney General Jeff Sessions—got over the imposition of a “zero tolerance” prosecution policy at the southern border that resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents, they are seeking a go-ahead.

One Republican close to the White House and a former White House official familiar with the discussions told Politico that the cap could fall as low as 15,000 in 2019.

“Inside the Washington Beltway, this is a numbers game that’s being carried out by people who don’t care about refugees and are orienting this to their base,” Anne Richard, who served as assistant secretary of state for Population, Refugees and Migration in the Obama administration, told Politico.

Miller, a policy adviser to Trump since the campaign and, before that, an aide to then-Senator Jeff Sessions, has made immigration his signature issue—and other White House denizens are loath to cross him, given his passion for the subject and his close relationship with the president, according to people familiar with dynamics inside the administration.

Miller declined to comment for the story. A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Research contact: ncook@politico.com

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