Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli doubled down on his revisions to the Statue of Liberty immigration poem Tuesday by saying it was referring to “people coming from Europe.”
Mr. Cuccinelli garnered controversy earlier by suggesting changes to Emma Lazarus’ words in the poem “The New Colossus,” — which reads, in part: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — to fit closer to the administration’s new rule changes limiting immigration for poorer migrants.
“Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge,” he said to NPR.
Later that evening, Mr. Cuccinelli appeared on CNN’s “Outfront” to address the controversy.
“That poem was referring back to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies — where people were considered wretched if they weren’t in the right class,” he said.
“It was introduced one year after the first federal public charge rule was written that says — I’ll quote it, ‘Any person unable to take care of himself without becoming a public charge,’ unquote, would be inadmissible.” Mr. Cuccinelli said.
“In the terms that my agency deals with, they can’t do what’s called adjusting status, getting a green card, becoming legal permanent residence. This is a central part of our heritage as Americans,” he said.
Mr. Cuccinelli also added that he didn’t intend to rewrite the poem and was only “answering a question” from NPR’s Rachel Martin, who quoted the poem first.
“Nancy Pelosi referred to America’s proud heritage. Self-sufficiency is a central part of America’s proud heritage. And we proudly stand behind that tradition,” he said.
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