By Chandelis Duster, CNN
A conservative legal group led by former top Trump aide Stephen Miller has emerged as a frequent opponent to several Biden administration initiatives by mounting court challenges, succeeding in blocking policies they say are examples of reverse discrimination.
Miller touts America First Legal as “the long-awaited answer to the (American Civil Liberties Union),” and his group has garnered several legal victories against the Biden administration in the past few weeks and months, most notably on issues of racial discrimination.
The group has aired advertisements criticizing the Biden administration’s policies on LGBTQ rights and has filed a class-action lawsuit against Texas A&M University, claiming the college has “engaged in a discriminatory hiring practice, choosing which candidates to hire based on their race or sex.” That lawsuit is ongoing.
In 2021, America First Legal was also successful in halting some Covid-19 relief funds under the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund to women, veterans and minority business owners who could apply for grants during a priority period in its initial rollout, a move Miller argued was an “unconstitutional and racially discriminatory scheme.”
Perhaps most notably, the organization was involved in legal challenges that forced the Biden administration to create a work-around on getting debt relief for farmers of color. An effort passed as part of the Covid-19-related American Rescue Plan in 2021 was challenged in court by a litany of lawsuits by some White farmers who complained that the effort to remedy longstanding inequities by wiping the debt of only farmers of color was itself discriminatory.
America First Legal filed a lawsuit against the effort, representing Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and a group of White farmers in the state who also argued that the program is unconstitutional because of racial discrimination. The lawsuits led to an injunction that blocked the debt relief payments.
Attorneys argued that the USDA’s definition of “socially disadvantaged farmer and rancher” that excludes Whites is “patently unconstitutional.” They also said the agency was violating the Constitution by “discriminating on the grounds of race, color, and national origin” in the program and that the court should prohibit the clause from being enforced.
Ultimately, the administration abandoned the effort and quietly tucked a couple provisions into the Inflation Reduction Act that passed over the summer to allocate debt relief that is eligible to farmers of all backgrounds, regardless of race.
CNN has reached out to America First Legal for comment.
Several Black farmers and social justice advocates have said Miller’s actions are harmful.
“I want to set the record straight — no one is against White farmers in this country,” John Boyd Jr., 57, a fourth-generation farmer who is founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, told CNN. He added that what Miller is doing to Black farmers through the legal challenges is “humiliating and the worst thing you can do for race-relations in this country.”
Dorian Spence, a lawyer whose firm represented the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, a group of southern cooperatives that has been advocating for Black farmers in litigation brought by White farmers, told CNN that Miller’s group uses “grievance politics through the rule of law to try to exclude people of color broadly, but in certain pockets Black people specifically from areas of opportunity.”
“America First sees an America that is increasingly White, White male-driven,” Spence said.
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CNN’s Jessica Schneider contributed to this report.