During a press briefing on new immigration policy this Wednesday, top White House aide Stephen Miller took the unusual step of adding a disclaimer to one of the most widely recognized symbols of American freedom.
During an exchange with CNN’s Jim Acosta, Miller argued that a famous poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty which calls for open acceptance of all immigrants was added years after the statue’s unveiling, seemingly suggesting that the late addition diminished the poem’s importance.
Acosta quoted the poem, which includes the words “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and asked Miller if the new merit-based immigration policy introduced by the White House goes against the American tradition of unbiased acceptance of immigrants.
“Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them they have to speak English? Can’t people learn how to speak English when they get here?” Acosta asked.
“I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here,” Miller said, “But the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty lighting the world, it’s a symbol of liberty lighting the world. The poem you are referring to, which was added later, is not part of the original Statue of Liberty.”
Miller then starting throwing out immigration statistics and asked Acosta what level of immigration would satisfy his “definition of the Statue of Liberty poem’s law of the land.”
From The Hill:
Poet Emma Lazarus wrote the famous poem,”The New Colossus,” to celebrate the statue’s 1883 unveiling. Eighteen years later, the poem was inscribed on the statue’s pedestal, where it remains as a key fixture of the monument.
Trump announced Wednesday that he and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) have agreed on language for a “merit-based immigration system that protects U.S. workers and taxpayers.” Among those qualifications that would boost a would-be immigrant: English-language proficiency.
Miller claimed during the exchange that speaking English is a requirement to be naturalized, but current U.S. policy only requires proficiency, not fluency, in order to be considered for naturalization unless they qualify for certain exceptions. Additionally, immigrants can take the required civics test in their native language.
Watch video of the exchange below:
Featured image via Patrick Monahan