Posted on December 14, 2022

How a Trump-Allied Group Fighting ‘Anti-White Bigotry’ Beats Biden in Court

Beth Reinhard and Josh Dawsey, Washington Post, December 12, 2022

The deal in early 2021 was hailed by advocates for Black farmers as the most significant piece of legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — about $4 billion in President Biden’s massive pandemic stimulus package to rectify decades of discrimination. Minority farmers began investing in new machinery and other improvements, anticipating tens of thousands of dollars in government aid.

But today, the landmark deal on behalf of historically disadvantaged farmers is dead — successfully challenged in court by a fledgling conservative organization that argued the program racially discriminated against White farmers.

America First Legal is headed by Stephen Miller, the architect of President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants. While AFL lacks the name recognition and financial heft of many conservative counterparts, it has racked up notable court victories over the Biden administration. Casting itself as “the long-awaited answer to the ACLU,” AFL has weaponized the grievance politics embodied by Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement through dozens of federal lawsuits, challenging efforts to remedy racial disparities, support LGBTQ students and expand the pool of early voters.

AFL-backed suits helped doom a $29 billion program that prioritized struggling female and minority-owned restaurants last year, and last week, a council created by the Department of Education that conservative parents groups viewed as partisan. AFL has won in part by consistently filing lawsuits in a conservative-friendly judicial district in Texas and taking advantage of a larger federal court system revamped by Trump’s predominantly conservative nominees.

The group’s success is alarming civil rights advocates, who fear Miller has figured out how to harness the courts to protect America’s declining White majority and unravel government policies intended to right historical wrongs against marginalized communities.

“Many of these lawsuits are centered on making sure that White people remain in control and continue to benefit from unearned privileges, and on maintaining the systemic discriminatory policies that have harmed Black people and other people of color for generations,” said David Hinojosa, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “To argue that White men are being pushed to the back of the line is unfounded and ridiculous. What they’re being asked to do is share a place in line with other people who do not look like them.”

In an interview, Miller said AFL is filling a void in the conservative legal movement by challenging what he termed “a hyperracialization of American political and corporate life.” Programs seeking to remedy past injustices and boost historically disadvantaged groups are punishing people based on their skin color, he said.

“I believe that the equity agenda represents one of the single greatest threats to the survival of our constitutional system,” he said.

The group’s mission was fueled by more than $6.3 million in donations last year {snip}


In the lead-up to the midterm election, AFL also bankrolled a multimillion dollar ad campaign that included inflammatory radio and TV spots demanding an end to “anti-white bigotry” and accusing the White House, businesses and universities of discriminating against White people.

Trump critics see AFL as the extension of a White House that frequently stoked racial division and a former president who last month dined at his Florida home with two well-known antisemites.


Miller, though, argues that AFL is fighting against “bigotry and insanity.”

“I think that it is inescapably true that there is insidious and explicit discrimination against White Americans, Asian Americans, Indian Americans and Jewish Americans based on their skin color and their ancestry,” he said.

According to Trump advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, Miller stays in close touch with Trump, contributes to his speeches and gave significant input on his endorsements in the midterm election, where many Trump-backed candidates who rejected Biden’s 2020 victory and took other far-right positions were defeated. Miller repeatedly complained during the campaign that Republican candidates were not talking enough about culture war issues and immigration and focusing too heavily on an economic message, people who spoke to him said. America “is the apex of achievement of Western civilization,” Miller said, with “a heritage to be jealously guarded.”

Miller founded AFL in early 2021, as a newly elected President Biden issued a flurry of executive orders dismantling the former president’s nativist agenda. Miller was involved in policies fervidly challenged by civil rights groups that banned immigration from several Muslim-majority countries and separated immigrant children from their parents.

“During the four years of the Trump administration — especially in the arena of immigration — every single executive action, no matter how rigorously lawful, was subjected to a never-ending stream of activist litigation,” Miller said. “One of my goals when I left the administration was to try to help and inspire and coordinate a larger legal movement on the conservative side of the spectrum to do the same.”


A Washington Post review found at least four dozen AFL-backed lawsuits filed in federal courts around the country since April 2021, some of which have received little attention outside of right-wing media.

To attack Biden’s aid to disadvantaged, minority farmers, Miller’s group made a brash choice for lead plaintiff: Sid Miller, the Trump-endorsed agriculture commissioner of Texas, who has questioned Biden’s dire warnings about white supremacy and compared Syrian refugees to rattlesnakes in social media posts.


The suit argued that the debt relief approved by Congress was unconstitutional because it excluded “white ethnic groups that have unquestionably suffered ethnic prejudice,” referring to Irish, Italian, German and other European immigrants and Jews. {snip}

“Any person with a traceable amount of minority ancestry must be regarded as a member of a ‘socially disadvantaged group,’” the suit said.


Judge Reed O’Connor, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, ruled in July 2021 in favor of the White plaintiffs, the third of four federal court orders that summer against the program. Congress repealed the program in August.


Three weeks after AFL challenged the aid to minority farmers, it turned to an even larger federal program: the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which gave women, minorities and veterans a head start to submit applications for nearly $29 billion in pandemic relief. The suit argued that the fund was likely to run out of money before White restaurant owners got a chance to apply and thus discriminated against them.

A federal court in Texas agreed in late May of 2021, as did an appeals court in Tennessee that reviewed a similar lawsuit. At the same time, Gregory León, the son of a Venezuelan immigrant and the owner of Amilinda restaurant in Milwaukee, received notice that he would receive $285,000 from the fund to help him get through the pandemic-related downturn. Just two weeks later, as León struggled to pay vendors, he was among about 3,000 restaurant owners who got another government letter: The fund had been quashed by litigation.


Another ongoing AFL-backed lawsuit assigned to a judge nominated by Trump argues that the Texas A&M University’s hiring practices are unconstitutional “by giving discriminatory preferences to female or non-Asian minorities at the expense of white and Asian men,” leading to promotions for “inferior faculty.”


Most of the AFL-backed lawsuits are still pending and allege that federal agencies are withholding public records about a range of right-wing targets, including the prosecution of Jan. 6, 2021, rioters, censorship by Big Tech, the origin of the coronavirus pandemic and a laptop used by President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. Many of the records requests echo allegations made by the far right and are treated as news stories by conservative media outlets. AFL has also demanded nearly every federal agency to produce documents related to Biden’s executive order promoting racial equity, which Miller has called “government sponsored and directed racism.”


Federal court judges have ruled against AFL in lawsuits opposing admissions criteria to ensure racial diversity at Philadelphia magnet schools, a New York program that considered race in determining eligibility for covid-19 treatment, a vaccine mandate for civilian federal employees, and Biden’s removal of Sean Spicer, a White House press secretary under Trump, and Vought, an AFL board member, from the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors. AFL is appealing most of those cases.