When he was confronted last Friday by a group of undocumented young people who were brought to this country by their parents, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) told the group that he sympathizes with their situation because he similarly had to migrate from Arkansas to California as a baby.
In a clip obtained by a Democratic-leaning House Majority Pac, two immigrants tell Miller during a breakfast event in his home district that they are students who want to be “part of this country,” but that their undocumented status has prevented them from finding careers. Miller responded:
MILLER: I understand the difficulty…I was born in Arkansas, I came here [to California] when I was a year old. Come on, I don’t know. There’s nothing to vote on. See, the [Senate] bill’s going nowhere in the House.
FEMALE: What’s one workable option for immigration reform?
MILLER: We have to create American jobs for American workers first. Then we need to say how do we get a line for citizenship. We need to have a system. Right now there’s a timeline in which you have to act. Right now, the immigration system is somewhat broken, no matter if you’re coming in from the Middle East or a South American worker, right now, you need a structured guideline. [...]
FEMALE: Once that’s established, then you can talk about a pathway to citizenship.
MILLER: [...] I’ve got to see what comes out. If you ask me what happens with any bill in committee… I’ve actually drafted, I’ve taken my name off bills that look so different from what it was.. I’m very cautious about supporting a bill. They want you to vote against it because they know you’re going to, that’s just part of the political game.
FEMALE: We want to see how we can work with you.
MILLER: I’m listening to everybody… I’ve been meeting with everybody. Whatever we do, it’s got to be done right.
Even if Miller does remember the trauma of moving from Arkansas to California at the age of one, his move did not entail any of the obstacles described by the DREAMers in front of him that accompany a lack of legal status. In fact, the “difficulty” that he understands does not begin to cover the scope of the limitations that the DREAMers have to endure, which includes a constant fear of deportation.
While Miller has said that he is “listening to everybody” and lives in a district that supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, his actions have suggested opposition.
In June, Miller voted to defund the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a program in which some of the immigrants featured in the video would likely qualify. His vote for an amendment underwritten by the anti-immigrant Rep. Steve King (R-IA) would give immigration agents wider discretion to deport undocumented immigrants. Earlier in his career, Miller advocated for deportation when he represented another Southern California district.
And immigration advocates have taken notice of Miller’s anti-immigration stance. He is one of the several House Republican members whose districts were targeted by Spanish ads in July. Organizing for Action also began releasing Spanish-language ads in Miller’s district on Tuesday to “hold him accountable for fixing our broken immigration system.”
Recently he has been aiming to walk back his harsh rhetoric, notably “quietly scrubbing old YouTube videos and statements from his website that advocated a tougher stance on immigration.”