EXCLUSIVE: A conservative legal group set up by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller is already scoring some early legal victories against the Biden administration just weeks after getting started, and he believes the group has a “target-rich environment” as it looks to push back on issues from immigration to Critical Race Theory.
“Our organization is only a matter of weeks old, we are in every sense of the word a brand new organization, and yet in that very short time we’ve already been involved in spearheading some of the most important litigation in the entire country about the most important issues that will determine the future of this republic,” Miller told Fox News in an interview this week.
America First Legal is one of a number of conservative legal groups but has specifically sought to work with attorneys general and focus on issues closely related to the “America First” agenda, of which Miller is a top proponent.
Gene Hamilton, a former senior Justice Department (DOJ) lawyer who is part of AFL, told Fox News that one of AFL’s strengths is that it will venture into more controversial issues that other groups may be unable to fight due to wariness of their donors, such as immigration and Critical Race Theory (CRT).
“We know that there is an appetite among the American people to have an organization that pushes back, that fights for conservative values and that will represent the interests of everyday Americans above those corporate special interests, above that beltway thinking that occurs in the DC area and that stands up for what folks actually believe in,” Gene Hamilton, a former DOJ lawyer who is part of AFL, told Fox News.
And while it has not been in business for long, the group has notched up some early successes in pushing back against the Biden administration.
The group won a preliminary injunction against the Department of Agriculture’s program that gave loan forgiveness to “socially disadvantaged” farmers. It defined “socially disadvantaged” as a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice, including Native American, Asian, Black and Latino farmers. AFL led Texas farmers who held qualifying loans but were disqualified as they were White.
It’s other key victory came when the Biden administration was ordered to stop prioritizing certain groups in awarding funds under its Restaurant Revitalization Fund – a move that AFL’s suit said was discriminatory.
Miller described both efforts by the Biden administration as an attempt to apply Critical Race Theory to the administration of government.
“What we see in the USDA program and what we see is the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is the application of this racist philosophy to the operation of government programs and nothing is more fearsome than when the mighty power of the state is used to punish or exclude people because of how they look or where their ancestors come from – and that is what is at stake in those cases,” he said.
AFL has also been active, either directly or in an advisory role, with states taking legal action against the Biden administration’s reversal of Trump-era border policies, such as halting wall construction, the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP),– as well as the Biden administration’s narrowing of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) priorities.
Miller, who played a key role in forming the Trump administration’s immigration and border policies and has pushed for the U.S. to take a harder line on illegal immigration, said the questions surrounding the cases were not just about immigration, but about executive power.
“This is an existential issue for the country, whether or not the president has authority to suspend the congressionally enacted statutes at will to make his own law, in this case for the purpose of unrestrained illegal entry into the country,” he said.
Both Miller and Hamilton described that they had witnessed liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) gump up Trump administration policies by getting into court early and frequently, often before sympathetic judges. It’s a tactic they are looking to copy.
“The difference is that whereas the ACLU and like-minded organizations ran into court to stop President Trump from enforcing the law and implementing a constitutional agenda, we’re going to use the same tactics, but in service of defending our laws and defending our constitution from illegal and unconstitutional actions,” Miller said.
In addition to its lawsuits, the AFL has made a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and public records requests as part of its oversight efforts. Those include topics such as records on the termination of the Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement (VOICE), Hatch Act investigations during the Trump administration, and the White House’s communications with Facebook about misinformation.
It’s a wide-ranging focus that, in the light of its early successes, has the group optimistic.
“We have a number of ongoing projects that will likely soon prove to be fruitful and we are making a real difference for the conservative movement at a very early stage of our existence,” Hamilton said. “I think this is going to be a target-rich environment for us to operate in, and I think based on what we’ve experienced so far, the future is very bright for our organization.”