Cuccinelli defends controversial remarks on Statue of Liberty poem

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,  defended his controversial remarks about the poem etched on the Statue of Liberty in an exclusive interview with Hill.TV Tuesday afternoon. 

Cuccinelli had earlier tweaked the language contained in Emma Lazarus's poem etched on the Statue of Liberty to defend the Trump administration's new "public charge" policy that could deny green cards to immigrants who are seen as likely to need public services. 

"Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge," Cuccinelli said on NPR's "Morning Edition" when asked if Lazarus's poem, "The New Colossus," was part of the American ethos. 

Lazurus's original poem 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!"

In an interview with Hill.TV, Cuccinelli explained his comments, saying "the public charge rule we’re talking about is about self sufficiency."

"In federal law it goes back 140 years but you’ll find public charge laws on the books all the way into the Colonial era," he added. "This is part and parcel of America’s immigration history. We want people to come here. We’re the most generous nation in the history of the world when it comes to immigration but we do expect people to stand on their own two feet to care for themselves."  

The Trump administration's "public charge" policy has been widely condemned by pro-immigration groups, though Cuccinelli and other administration officials have strongly defended it.

Cuccinelli told White House reporters Monday morning that "our rule generally prevents aliens, who are likely to become a public charge, from coming to the United States or remaining here and getting a green card. Public charge is now defined in a way that ensures the law is meaningfully enforced and that those who are subject to it are self-sufficient." 

- Saagar Enjeti