The architect of the Trump administration’s immigration policy, Stephen Miller, “belongs in prison,” Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from Texas, said during an interview for The Intercept’s podcast Deconstructed.
Miller, a White House adviser and longtime aide to former Sen. Jeff Sessions, was instrumental in implementing President Donald Trump’s child separation policy, which drew international outrage in 2018. Escobar was responding to a question as to whether prosecutions of Trump administration officials ought to be pursued, and at what point Democrats should similarly call for prosecutions of Biden administration officials if the crisis at the southern border is not resolved.
“I think Stephen Miller should be behind bars,” Escobar said. “I think he committed heinous human rights violations, and I think that those around him who helped plot this out should be held accountable as well.”
Doing so, she acknowledged, will not be easy. “That is going to be very difficult, but it kills me that these people could potentially walk away and even potentially rebuild their reputations. I find them to be just among the most reprehensible, abhorrent people that our generation could have ever produced,” she said.
Escobar sits on the House Judiciary Committee, along with the panel’s subcommittee on immigration. The committee is actively investigating the Trump administration’s immigration record. The child separation policy was piloted in El Paso, Texas, in mid-2017 before being rolled out across the border in April 2018, running for several months until it was largely, though not entirely, rescinded. Some 4,368 children were separated from their parents as a result of the policy; hundreds remain apart, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Miller was a key proponent of Trump’s most inhumane immigration policies, including the zero-tolerance stance that prosecuted all unauthorized migrant parents crossing the border, detaining them without their children. And he is headed for the courts regardless. Miller recently launched America First Legal, a right-wing organization built to launch legal challenges to Democratic initiatives.
Escobar spoke to The Intercept after a visit to a migrant housing facility in El Paso. The Biden administration has opened several temporary facilities to house an influx of minors at the southern border and yesterday asked federal workers to volunteer to serve at understaffed facilities.
Prosecution isn’t yet appropriate for Biden administration officials, Escobar argued, saying that the White House is making forward progress improving the situation at the border.
“To your second question, I am in good frequent communication with the Biden administration on what’s happening, and as long as I continue to see progress and movement in the right direction and input from folks on the ground — including advocates and attorneys who shoulder the consequences of horrific policies right alongside their clients and the migrants who they’re advocating for — as long as the admin is moving in the right direction, I will keep working with them and will keep providing them with ideas for reform and for forward movement,” she said. “But if at any point I feel like we are sliding backward, or there’s not absolutely every resource and effort being put toward a more humane and compassionate system that does justice to our values, I will be among the Biden administration’s loudest critics.”
Escobar also floated a full revamp of immigration policy at the border, suggesting that Border Patrol agents be largely excluded from the refugee and asylum process, and that once a minor has been fingerprinted and processed, a matter that should take just hours, they be released to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which can connect them with family already in the country as they await asylum proceedings.
Escobar said she expected resistance from some in the Border Patrol. “I do think they would resist this,” she said, adding that she recently floated the idea while meeting with Border Patrol officials, and one of them approached her after the meeting to raise objections. “His view was, then how are we going to investigate, basically, fraud cases. And said I think there’s a way to do it, but right now what’s happening is the reverse of what should be happening. We are keeping children and families in what feels like criminal custody, and the vast majority of them, their one violation is a civil violation.”
The full interview with Escobar is available here.