A senior Donald Trump aide has angrily argued the ‘welcome immigrants’ poem carved on the Statue of Liberty is meaningless because it was added later, as he made a fierce defence of a strict new immigration policy backed by the US President.
Stephen Miller on Wednesday brushed off the significance of the “The New Colossus” during a heated exchange with CNN reporter Jim Acosta.
During the daily White House press briefing, Miller was expanding on fresh legislation on immigration reform that would favour English-speaking applicants.
Acosta questioned Miller about whether that bill is “in keeping with American tradition” and cited the most famous portion of “The New Colossus”:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Miller dismissed Acosta’s reference, arguing that the poem, written by Emma Lazarus, was “added later” and has no significance.
WATCH THE EXCHANGE HERE:
“I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty and lighting in the world; it’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to was added later. It’s not actually part of the Statue of Liberty,” Miller argued.
Miller went on to accuse Acosta of “cosmopolitan bias”.
Acosta, who said his father immigrated from Cuba before the Cuban Missile Crisis, argued a ”‘press 1 for English’ philosophy” was being introduced which was out of step with American tradition.
Acosta added: “Are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?”
Miller responded he was “shocked at your statement that you think only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English”.
“It reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree, this is an amazing moment,” he argued.
Acosta later said on CNN “you can be both Cuban and cosmopolitan”.
“The New Colossus” was added to the Statue of Liberty in 1903 and the statue itself was dedicated in 1886.
But they are widely associated with each other: the poem is currently featured on a bronze tablet in the museum in the base of the Statue of Liberty, and there are sections of the National Park Service’s website for the statue that are devoted to the poem and Lazarus.
The poem was often cited earlier this year as Trump tried to ban people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
Reporters were shocked by the exchange.
Donald Trump earlier backed the legislation that looks to curb the level of legal immigration into the United States by proposing a skills-based immigration system.
Trump signalled the proposal is a way to protect American workers by reducing unskilled immigration.
“It has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers,” Trump said of the current immigration system, specifically citing low-income and minority workers.