A White House press briefing focused on President Donald Trump’s proposed changes to the green card application process spiraled out of control Wednesday, with White House adviser Stephen Miller accusing CNN’s Jim Acosta of bad faith and ignorance after Acosta said the bill appeared like an attempt to “engineer a racial and ethnic flow” of immigrants.
The bill, which Trump announced Wednesday alongside Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), would prioritize green card applicants based on things like English-speaking ability and job skills.
“The Statue of Liberty says give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free — doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer,” Acosta told Miller. “Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them, you have to speak English? Can’t people learn how to speak English when they get here?
Miller eventually said the sentiment wasn’t relevant: “In 1970, when we let in 300,000 people a year, was that violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land?” he asked rhetorically.
The conversation went off the rails. At one point, Acosta implied the policy would favor immigrants from English-speaking countries — a logical assumption, if English speaking skills are prioritized in green card applicants.
“Are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?” he asked.
“I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English,” Miller responded. “Actually, it reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree, that in your mind— ”
Acosta tried to respond.
“No! This is an amazing moment,” Miller said triumphantly. “This is an amazing moment. That you think only people from Great Britain or Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hardworking immigrants who do speak English from all over the world.”
“Of course the are people who come — ” Acosta began.
“But that’s not what you said, and it shows your cosmopolitan bias,” Miller said.
“It sounds like you’re trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country as policy,” Acosta said.
“Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you’ve ever said,” Miller said. “The notion that you think that this is a racist bill is so wrong and so insulting”
Acosta denied saying as much.
The CNN correspondent weighed in on the exchange on air after the briefing.
“Well, you can be Cuban and cosmopolitan, Brooke,” Acosta told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin. “I think when the White House has to resort to insulting reporters in that fashion — and we’ve seen this time and again throughout the course of this administration — they’re just really not advancing a terribly powerful argument.”
Watch the exchange below:
— Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) August 2, 2017