Give me your tired, your poor … but not too poor.
Acting head of Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli on Tuesday made a tweak to Emma Lazarus’ famous poem etched onto the Statue of Liberty while rationalizing the Trump administration’s new “public charge” rule, which could restrict green cards to low-income legal immigrants who use public benefits.
During an NPR interview, host Rachel Martin asked Cuccinelli if he agreed that the words written on the statue, particularly “give me your tired, your poor,” are part of the American ethos.
“They certainly are,” the acting USCIS chief replied. “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet. And who will not become a public charge.”
Cucinelli makes the comment at the 5:50 timestamp:
The acting USCIS head was confronted with a similar question about the poem on Monday during a press conference on the new rule.
“Is that sentiment, give us your tired, your poor, still operative in the United States or should the words come down on the statue?” a reporter asked.
Cuccinelli said he was “certainly not prepared to take anything down off the Statue of Liberty.”
Cuccinelli when asked if the Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty still applies under the new "public charge" rule on immigration: "I'm certainly not prepared to take anything off the Statue of Liberty." pic.twitter.com/zzWogDSfRj
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) August 13, 2019
It’s not the first time anti-immigration hardliners in President Donald Trump’s administration have had to explain how Trump’s harsh crackdowns on legal immigration reconcile with the Statue of Liberty’s message.
In 2017, CNN reporter Jim Acosta asked White House adviser Stephen Miller how Trump’s proposed immigration policy requiring certain skill levels squared with the poem that once greeted immigrants arriving at Ellis Island.
“The poem that you’re referring to was added later (and) is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty,” Miller responded.