Editorials

He’s why Trump separates families, cages kids. What did California do to Stephen Miller?

Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, shown here in 2017 briefiing reporters on immigration policy, describes the “zero tolerance” separation of migrant families as “a simple decision.”
Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, shown here in 2017 briefiing reporters on immigration policy, describes the “zero tolerance” separation of migrant families as “a simple decision.” Getty Images

What in the world did California do to Stephen Miller? Did some MS-13 gangbanger beat him up in the bathroom at Santa Monica High School? Did the pretty Latina in AP calculus ditch him at the prom?

Like some high school reunion nightmare, Miller, who grew up rich and then poorer in one of Los Angeles’ wealthiest suburbs in the 1990s, has made it his business as a senior policy adviser to President Donald Trump to haunt, hurt and debase the liberal West Coast culture that spawned him.

First there was the Muslim ban, authored with the now-exiled Steve Bannon and ordered by Trump, which ignited national mass protests. Now comes his “zero tolerance” immigration policy – “a simple decision” announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and defended by Trump, he told The New York Times, that has led to thousands of traumatized migrant children being torn from their parents and stuffed into holding facilities along the Mexican border.

In interviews, Miller paints himself as a master strategist with a plan that he believes will satiate the silent majority of Americans who want to torture foreign-born toddlers, or leverage them to build a Great Wall on the border, or something. And indeed, 28 percent of Americans do, if the latest opinion polls are to be believed.

But let’s be clear: This “strategy,” or whatever it is, is state-sponsored child abuse and a moral abomination by any sane party’s standards. Why is anyone in Washington – and, in particular, anyone purporting to represent California in Congress – enabling it?

Cruel” is what former Republican First Lady Laura Bush called it. “Wicked,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., termed it. “This must stop,” wrote Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Even the Central Valley Trump stalwart Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, released a statement Tuesday decrying the internment of migrant children as “a humanitarian and national security crisis” that is “unacceptable.”

Not so unacceptable, though, that Valadao and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, are above using the situation as leverage to ram through a bill that, while making a halfhearted attempt to stop the Trump administration from separating families, would also force the president’s wall down U.S. taxpayers’ throats and dramatically curtail even legal immigration. And that’s the less Draconian version of two “comprehensive” immigration bills under consideration.

Never mind that what House Republicans want has no chance of passage in the Senate. In a closed fundraising appearance in Fresno on Monday, The Fresno Bee’s Rory Appleton reported, McCarthy said he plans to bring an immigration measure to a vote later this week, after Trump weighs in on the various proposals. He declined to discuss the border separations directly, saying only, according to donors who were there, that the situation was “a legacy issue that’s been around for 20 years.”

Actually, it isn’t. Imprisoning babies and tearing apart families, and using them as a bargaining chip with Congress, is a sick, new non-solution to a basic policy question on immigration. And it’s a callous and unnecessary distraction from the real issues facing California.

Farmers are staring down the barrel of a labor shortage in an economy with nearly full employment, and immigrant families are cowering in terror of being deported. And that’s just here in the Central Valley.

There’s a happy medium and it could be reached if that’s what this president wanted – or if the Republican congressional majority could muster the backbone to stand up to hardliners within their caucus and crazed ideologues such as Trump’s house troll, Miller.

Oh, Santa Monica. Look what you’ve done.

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