Steve Bannon’s much-talked-about interview with Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes last Sunday included a lot of discussion of immigration. Bannon has been the avatar of the racist wing of the anti-immigrant faction.
He put his White Nationalist beliefs on full display Sunday.
First up in the interview was Bannon’s take on the Attorney General’s announcement that DACA will end on March 5, 2018. Bannon advocated simply ending DACA immediately, with no six-month winding down period. He thinks that the delayed destruction of DACA will damage Republican chances to retain control of Congress. “I am worried about losing the House now because of DACA,” he told Rose.
“My fear,” Bannon said, “is that with this six month down range if this goes down to its logical conclusion in February or March, it will be a civil war inside the Republican Party that will be every bit as vitriolic as in 2013. To me, doing that in the springboard of the primary season of 2018 is extremely unwise.”
By pressing Congress to address the status of those with DACA, Bannon worries, the internal fissure in the Republican party between White Nationalists and Conservatives will be exposed and a civil war will erupt as the party goes into the electoral season. Better, he believes, for Trump to take the political heat now, than to throw it to Congress next year.
When asked by Rose if he was concerned about the fate of the Dreamers and what would happen to them after DACA, Bannon callously replied, “we have to focus on American citizens. As the work permits run out, they self-deport. Amnesty,” he said, “is non-negotiable.”
When Rose reminded Bannon that America’s unique place in the world is based on its ability to welcome immigrants, that the country was built, in part, by immigrants, Bannon responded with the White Nationalist mantra, “You are dead wrong. America was built on her citizens. Look at the 19th Century. What built America was the American System from Hamilton to Polk to Henry Clay to Lincoln… a system [based on] the control of our borders.”
In fact, of course, there were no controls on immigrants coming to America during the entire time from Hamilton down through Lincoln. Border controls on immigration only came in with the Chinese Exclusion Acts beginning in the 1880s. As usual, the White Nationalist historian is wrong. He also neglects the role that the labor of enslaved African Americans played in the creation of wealth in the South in the 19th Century.
Like Steve Miller’s attack on the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of hope for immigrants, Bannon’s reply that America was not built by immigrants amplifies common racialist and xenophobic themes on Alt-Right platforms like Breitbart. They sound strange to most Americans, but they ring alarm bells in the minds of dedicated visitors to Storm Front and the like.
Bannon also batted away criticism of his anti-immigrant program by religious leaders, on moral grounds. In response to statements opposing the end of DACA by the Catholic bishops, Bannon said that far from holding the moral high-ground, they were merely pursuing self-interest.
“They need illegal aliens,” he told Rose. He added that the bishops “need illegal aliens to fill the churches, that’s — it’s obvious on the face of it.”
Bannon concluded, “That’s what — the entire Catholic bishops condemn [Trump]. … They have — they have an economic interest. They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration.”