Just as Trump officials debuted a regulation that denies aid to migrants, the head of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, tweaked the passage:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.
To those words, he added,
“who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge”.
The “acting” head of Citizenship and Immigration Services (so, he’s just “acting” like he knows what he’s doing?) announced Monday that a new “public charge” requirement that limits legal migrants from seeking certain public benefits such as public housing or food aid.
The new regulation, known as a “public charge rule”, was published in the Federal Register on Monday and will take effect this October 15th.
On Tuesday, Mr Cuccinelli was asked by NPR whether the 1883 poem titled The New Colossus at the Statue of Liberty on New York’s Ellis Island still applied.
NPR’s Rachel Martin asked,
“Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus’s words etched on the Statue of Liberty, ‘Give me your tired, give me your poor,’ are also a part of the American ethos?”
Mr Cuccinelli responded,
“They certainly are,…Give me your tired and your poor – who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge. That plaque was put on the Statue of Liberty at almost the same time as the first public charge [law] was passed – very interesting timing.”
The actual passage reads in part:
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
In the interview, he added that immigrants are welcome
“who can stand on their own two feet, be self-sufficient, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, again, as in the American tradition”.
After the host asked if the policy “appears to change the definition of the American dream,” he said:
“We invite people to come here and join us as a privilege.
No one has a right to become an American who isn’t born here as an American.”
This does not apply to refugees and asylum applicants, but applicants for visa extensions, green cards or US citizenship will be subject to the change.
Those who do not meet income standards or who are deemed likely to rely on benefits such as Medicaid (government-run healthcare) or housing vouchers in future may be blocked from entering the country.
Those already in the US could also have their applications rejected. 22 million legal residents in the US are without citizenship. Many of these are likely to be affected.
The House Homeland Security Committee condemned Cuccinelli’s revision in a tweet, calling the words
“vile and un-American.
It’s clear the Trump Administration just wants to keep certain people out.”
The committee called Cuccinelli,
“a xenophobic, anti-immigrant fringe figure who has no business being in government”.
As the attorney general of Virginia, Cuccinelli led a conservative campaign against immigration and homosexuality.
Asked about Mr Cuccinelli’s remarks on Tuesday, Trump did not directly respond to the Statue of Liberty quote, but said,
“I don’t think it’s fair to have the American taxpayer pay for people to come into the United States.
I’m tired of seeing our taxpayer paying for people to come into the country and immediately go onto welfare and various other things.
So I think we’re doing it right.”
Cuccinelli has been a paid right-wing spokesperson hired by CNN to spout Trump’s rhetoric, and true to form, he gets rewarded.
(Photos, Wikimedia commons, screen grab; via BBC)