Politics

Trump’s New USCIS Director Says Statue of Liberty Poem Should Be Changed

Donald Trump’s top immigration official offered a revised version of the poem affixed to the base of the Statue of Liberty that aligns more closely with the administration’s latest rule aimed at curbing the number of people who enter the United States legally.

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was asked by NPR on Tuesday whether the words of Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus,” inscribed on a bronze tablet at the Statue of Liberty, remain “part of the American ethos.”

“They certainly are,” Cuccinelli said. “Give me your tired and your poor — who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

The administration on Monday issued a “public charge” regulation allowing federal officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who have received certain public benefits or who are deemed likely to do so in the future

Critics of the policy have said it is at odds with the Lazarus poem, which reads “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!”

The poem, affixed to the statue that for decades greeted immigrants arriving in New York at Ellis Island, has long been interpreted as a welcome mat for those seeking refuge in the U.S.

Addressing the controversial policy during a White House press briefing, Cuccinelli was pressed on the relevance of the creed which has welcomed generations of immigrants.

“Is that sentiment ― ‘Give us your tired, your poor’ ― still operative in the United States, or should those words come down?” CBS News Radio correspondent Steven Portnoy asked him.

“I’m certainly not prepared to take anything down off the Statue of Liberty,” Cuccinelli replied.

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