Cuccinelli: Statue of Liberty poem refers to people from Europe

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said on Tuesday that the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants to the United States was referring to “people coming from Europe.”

“Well of course that poem referred back to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies,” Cuccinelli said of the inscription on the statue during an appearance on CNN on Tuesday. “Where people were considered wretched if they weren’t in the right class.”

{mosads}“And it was introduced — it was written one year — one year after the first federal public charge rule was written that says — and I’ll quote it, ‘Any person unable to take care of himself without becoming a public charge,’ would be inadmissible or 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,” he continued.

The official’s remarks arrive on the heels of comments he made earlier on Tuesday tweaking the inscription on the statue to defend a new policy rolled out by the Trump administration that makes it easier to reject green cards for those deemed likely to depend on public assistance. 

“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 Tuesday morning while responding to a question in an interview with NPR on whether Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus,” was part of the American ethos.

The 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!” 

Speaking further about the “public charge” rule on Tuesday, Cuccinelli said that if an immigrant doesn’t “have future prospects of being legal permanent residents without welfare, that will be counted against them.” 

“That is the point of the rule. It doesn’t seem too much to ask that we have Americans here who aren’t likely to go on welfare and become public charge,” he continued.

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