In the country’s darkest moments, the poem on the Statue of Liberty has stood as beacon of what the United States is supposed to represent, an enduring testament to our greatest ideals. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,” the inscription at the bottom of the statue famously reads. Well, Acting director of Immigration and Customs Authority, Ken Cuccinelli, appointed by President Donald Trump, thinks we should edit the 113-year-old inscription. On Tuesday, Cuccinelli suggested an alternative to Emma Lazarus’ sonnet:
“Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge,” Cuccinelli told NPR’s Rachel Martin in an interview published on Tuesday morning. Cuccinelli initially wrote the line in regards to a new regulation introduced by the Trump administration on Monday, which aims to further limit which immigrants can qualify for green cards. Cuccinelli’s line has recieved ample criticism after it was posted online.
“Somebody needs to inform Ken Cuccinelli that undocumented immigrants pay billions in taxes and help fund benefits they can’t even use,” one Twitter user wrote. “They not only stand on their own two feet, they often help others stand, too.”
Cuccinelli’s suggested Statue of Liberty edit makes the case for the extremely controversial move to limit the amount of public aid — such as food stamps — that immigrants can access without fear of retribution. The new regulation also would deny green cards to low-income immigrants, and immigrants without advanced education.
Trump advisor Stephen Miller defended the new regulation and Cuccinelli’s statement on Monday, telling CNN’s Jim Acosta that “the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you're referring to was added later [and] is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty."
While the Acting Director of ICE or anyone else in Trump’s administration don’t have any say when it comes to what’s written on the actual Statue of Liberty, they are getting a say in changing what it means to be an immigrant in this country.