The acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services made a bigoted change to the famous Statue of Liberty poem, Emma Lazarus' 'The New Colossus.'
As the immigration crisis at the United States-Mexico border worsens, it appears that President Donald Trump's administration is only further deepening its bigoted narrative. During an interview with NPR's Morning Edition about a new immigration policy announced on August 13, acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli made a significant change to the famous Statue of Liberty poem, 'The New Colossus' by American poet Emma Lazarus. While the original poem welcomes immigrants to the land of the free, the Trump official's version was a little bit more conservative, to put it lightly. Though Cuccinelli has defended his statements, many are upset with his remarks which have been perceived as racist, BBC reports.
Lazarus' original poem reads, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore." However, Cuccinelli "corrected" the poem, stating that it should instead read, "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge." This alteration is representative of the Trump administration's attitudes towards immigration. Nonetheless, despite the focus on legal pathways to citizenship, the United States' current immigration systems have flouted the constitutional rights that asylum seekers are legally granted.
Cuccinelli's remarks were made in light of a new immigration policy that will deny green cards as well as visas to immigrants should they be likely to use or need benefits from federal, state, or local government institutions. These benefits include food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid insurance. He affirmed, "If they don't have future prospects of being legal permanent residents without welfare, that will be counted against them. All immigrants who can stand on their own two feet, self-sufficient, pull themselves up by their bootstraps [would be welcome]." He also asserted that the poem referred to "people coming from Europe," which is apparently an acceptable form of immigration. "Of course that poem was referring back to people coming from Europe," Cuccinelli explained. "[There], they had class-based societies where people were considering wretched if they weren't in the right class."
Though he stated that the original poem referred to immigrants from Europe, he also confusingly added, "No one has a right to become an American who isn't born here as an American." He further clarified, "It is a privilege to become an American, not a right for anybody who is not already an American citizen, that's what I was referring to." Unsurprisingly, American citizens are both confused and angered by his statements. Late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert hilariously tweeted: So long as we're accepting updates to the Statue of Liberty poem, I have one: Give me your tired, your poor. And in exchange, we will give you Ken Cuccinelli. Activist Adam Best added: Somebody needs to inform Ken Cuccinelli that undocumented immigrants pay billions in taxes and help fund benefits they can’t even use. They not only stand on their own two feet, they often help others stand, too.