Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar on Tuesday defended herself after coming under criticism for a tweet in which she called White House senior adviser Stephen Miller a “white nationalist.”
Miller is widely considered the architect of the Trump administration’s controversial immigration policies.
“You know we are talking about someone who truly believes not a single refugee, not a single immigrant, should set foot on American soil,” Omar told CNN. “I am appalled by that. Because unlike him and others, I haven’t forgotten my roots. I know what it meant for me to get the opportunity to come to the United States to start anew.”
Omar added that Miller and President Donald Trump both hail from families who came to the United States as refugees.
“And many of his family and Trump’s family came here to get that opportunity and they forget,” she said. “So when you get that opportunity, you do not turn your back on the next person who is seeking that opportunity. And I am here to make sure they never forget.”
Miller has come into focus again following a recent White House push for a harder line on immigration, including a shakeup at the Department of Homeland Security.
Officials said it was being orchestrated by Miller, the impetus behind some of the administration’s most controversial policies. They said Trump is also considering separating migrant families at the border again, resuming a practice that drew much outrage last year. Miller was reportedly behind that move too.
On Monday the Wikipedia page for Kapos, Jewish prisoners who collaborated with the Nazis in the camps during the Holocaust, was briefly illustrated with a picture of Miller. The main picture on the page was replaced but still bore the original caption: “A kapo leader at Salaspils concentration camp, Latvia, wearing a Judenstern and a Lagerpolizist (camp policeman) armband.”
By Tuesday morning, the original picture had been restored.
Miller has faced widespread criticism in the past, particularly for the policy of separating children from the parents of illegal migrants.
The policy, which was instituted in May, said anyone who crossed the border illegally would be detained and prosecuted. That meant children, who cannot be prosecuted and detained like adults, were forcibly separated from their parents for an undetermined period.
More than 2,300 children were stripped from their parents and adult relatives after illegally crossing the border since May 5 and placed in tent camps and other facilities, with no way to contact their relatives.
In June, Miller was likened to a Nazi by a White House adviser, according to Vanity Fair.
“Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,” the outside adviser told the magazine. “He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.”
Miller has also faced widespread condemnation from the US Jewish community, most notably from his childhood rabbi.
“Honestly, Mr Miller, you’ve set back the Jewish contribution to making the world spiritually whole through your arbitrary division of these desperate people,” Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels said in his address for the Jewish new year. “The actions that you now encourage President Trump to take make it obvious to me that you didn’t get my, or our, Jewish message.”
Comess-Daniels made his comments at the Beth Shir Shalom congregation, which Miller attended with his family in 1999-2003.
Omar was met with backlash for remarks she made earlier this year on Israel, including comments that American supporters of Israel were pushing an “allegiance to a foreign country,” which some perceived as anti-Semitic. She later apologized, saying “anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”
Last week federal prosecutors announced that a western New York man was charged with threatening to kill Omar.
Agencies contributed to this report.