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"That guy" on immigration

Not jumping to any conclusions

Everybody knows “that guy.” He is “the person everyone loves to hate and never wants to become”—at least according to the most popular definition provided for the term on In Washington D.C., the idiomatic label has been applied to one person in particular, especially as the Trump administration makes a concentrated effort to pass immigration reform in the start of its second year.

Barely 30 years old and with no more than a Bachelor of Arts in hand, Duke alumnus Stephen Miller has quickly become known as “that guy” on the Hill. As senior advisor to the president, Miller has represented the office on TV news shows, fielded questions from reporters at press briefings and has been active in the formation of Trump’s policy initiatives. In the past month, he has cemented himself as the most infamous member of the administration due to the emphasis that Trump has placed on achieving immigration reform in 2018 and Miller’s heavily restrictionist views on the matter.

From directing choruses of “Build the Wall” chants at campaign rallies to railing against news reporters like CNN’s Jim Acosta, who questioned the underlying purpose of a proposed merit-based system of awarding green cards, Miller has made clear his hardline positions on immigration. His viewpoints, which are further right than those of many conservative peers in Congress, and an unwillingness to budge on any immigration issue have earned the derogatory moniker from both sides of the aisle. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham even has gone as far as to refer to Miller as the primary obstacle in the way of consequential immigration reform.

However, one could counter that he is the impetus—not the obstacle—to consequential immigration reform, as a recent New York Times article suggests. Although provides a negative definition, the connotation of “that guy” may be positive in the case of Miller. As “that guy” in immigration talks, Miller represents a popular viewpoint that is proportionally underrepresented in Congress. When Trump was elected, the American people made clear that they wanted more diverse opinions present in the immigration debate. Prior to 2017, the immigration debate was an echo chamber under the guise of bipartisanism. Trump’s election has given voice to the immigration hardliners of Congress, previously relegated in favor of senators from distinct parties like Senators Chuck Schumer and Marco Rubio, who hold similar fundamental views to Miller on the issue. Miller—just as he had in campaign stops in Johnstown, Pa., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and Fort Wayne, Ind.—has directed the chorus.

While the company of “that guy” may not be desired by many, Schumer and Graham included, Miller must have a seat at the table. While Miller is combative, rude and opposed to the most prominent perspective in the room, his role is critical. Miller’s positions make a lot of sense to a sizable portion of the American populace, who voted for Trump in large part because they aligned with the campaign’s stance on immigration. A significant portion of the American populace believes that less immigration and more comprehensive border control measures are the right path for the United States, and they need to be heard within the discourse.

Opponents of the Miller-approved immigration paradigm have suggested that ulterior motives beyond those of law and order, or fairness and common sense, motivate Miller’s restrictionist policy ideas. Although they are certainly justified in arriving at this conclusion, they cannot paint the masses with a broad brush. For every individual who supports immigration restriction because of misguided bigotry, there is a vast multiple who support similar policies because they believe the United States should not become intentionally less skilled, immigrants who speak English will be more likely to successfully assimilate and a porous border represents a significant national security concern.

“That guy,” might be a case of the former: a manifestation of bigoted ideology. Damning testimonies from those affiliated with him during his youth, racially-charged columns for the Chronicle and his adamant defense of our president’s character when he has defended the alt-right potentially evidence bigotry. However, it is also entirely possible that the eloquently stated and sensible justifications he provides during interviews, press briefings and rallies are his sole influence. 

It is unfortunate that such a high-ranking officer within the president’s current administration has garners such serious concern surrounding his personal character. But regardless of Miller’s personal views, he has undoubtedly helped establish a forum for immigration restrictionists who are not influenced by racial bigotry—such as Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who fiercely condemned white supremacism in Charlottesville—to influence policy for the valid reasons.          

Miller would be served well to be more cordial in his interactions with lawmakers as well as the press, as both Acosta and Graham can attest, and to more outspokenly condemn racial bigotry in any form so as to dispel allegations against his own character. However, he still is an important positive force in the capitol. Without Miller, an important, popular and well-informed perspective on immigration would be neglected because no one wants to be “that guy.” 

On the other hand, Miller welcomes the title.

Jacob Weiss is a Trinity senior. His column, "not jumping to any conclusions" runs on alternate Wednesdays.

Jacob Weiss

Jacob Weiss is a Trinity senior. His column, "not jumping to any conclusions," runs on alternate Fridays.


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