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Top White House adviser Stephen Miller reportedly told an old classmate that they could no longer be friends because the man was Latino, The New York Times reported Monday.
In a wide-ranging profile on Miller, the senior adviser and top immigration policy official, former classmates told the Times that Miller “established a reputation for barreling eagerly toward racial tinderboxes, leaving some to wonder whether his words were meant to be menacing or hammy.”
Jason Islas, whom the Times wrote was friendly with Miller in a middle school the two attended in California, said that the top White House aide called him at the start of ninth grade to let him know that they could no longer be friends.
“He gives me this litany of reasons,” Islas said, noting that they included his acne and social awkwardness, among others. “He mentioned my Latino heritage as one of the reasons. I remember coming away from the conversation being like, ‘OK, that’s that.'”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders disputed Islas’ account to the Times, calling it “a completely inaccurate characterization of their relationship, or lack thereof.”
But the Times wrote that several other students mentioned similarly racially tinged comments, pointing to Miller railing “against bilingual announcements, asking in a local editorial why there were ‘usually very few, if any, Hispanic students in my honors classes, despite the large number of Hispanic students that attend our school.”
Latino students also said he chafed at Spanish being spoken in hallways, and asked why Latino students “required a separate forum to discuss issues of identity.”
“He tended to make some of the Spanish language stuff very personal,” Moises Castillo, a classmate who described the exchanges as hurtful to this day, told the Times. “There was a ‘if you’re not speaking English, perhaps you should go somewhere else.'”
Miller has had an extremely influential role in crafting the administration’s immigration policy. On Sunday, the Trump administration released its opening demands for a “Dreamers” deal, which included a number of hardline positions that Democrats said were non-starters in potential negotiations.