A top Trump administration official says that the famous inscription on the Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants into the country is about “people coming from Europe” and that America is looking to receive migrants “who can stand on their own two feet.”
The comments on Tuesday from Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, came a day after the Trump administration announced it would seek to deny green cards to migrants who seek Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers or other forms of public assistance. The move, and Cuccinelli’s defense, prompted an outcry from Democrats and immigration advocates who said the policy would favor wealthier immigrants and disadvantage those from poorer countries in Latin America and Africa.
“This administration finally admitted what we’ve known all along: They think the Statue of Liberty only applies to white people,” tweeted former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic presidential candidate.
The administration’s proposed policy shift comes as President Donald Trump is leaning more heavily into the restrictive immigration policies that have energized his core supporters and were central to his 2016 victory. He has also spoken disparagingly about immigration from majority black and Hispanic countries, including calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals when he launched his 2016 campaign. Last year, he privately branded Central American and African nations as “shithole” countries and he suggested the U.S. take in more immigrants from European countries like predominantly white Norway.
Cuccinelli said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday night that the Emma Lazarus poem emblazoned on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty referred to “people coming from Europe where they had class based societies where people were considered wretched if they weren’t in the right class.”
Lazarus’ poem, written in 1883 to raise money to construct the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal and cast in bronze beneath the monument in 1903, served as a beacon to millions of immigrants who crossed past as they first entered the U.S. in New York Harbor. It reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
Cuccinelli was asked earlier Tuesday on NPR whether the words “give me your tired, your poor” were part of the American ethos. Cuccinelli responded: “They certainly are. Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”
A hard-line conservative from Virginia, Cuccinelli was a failed Republican candidate for governor in 2013 after serving as the state’s attorney general. He backed Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for president in 2016 and for a time was a harsh critic of Trump.
He is one of a slew of immigration hardliners brought in by Trump to implement the president’s policies. He was appointed to the post in June in a temporary capacity, which doesn’t require Senate confirmation.
Trump, asked Tuesday about Cuccinelli’s comments on NPR, appeared to back him up.
“I don’t think it’s fair to have the American taxpayer paying for people to come into the United States,” Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One for Pennsylvania. “I think we’re doing it right.”
Immigrant rights groups strongly criticized the Trump administration’s new rules for immigrants receiving public assistance, warning that the changes would scare immigrants away from asking for needed help. And they voiced concern that officials were being given too much authority to decide whether someone is likely to need public assistance in the future.
Another Democratic presidential candidate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, also condemned Cuccinelli’s comments.
“Our values are etched in stone on the Statue of Liberty. They will not be replaced,” she tweeted. “And I will fight for those values and for our immigrant communities.”
‘Uncle Tom’ Trends On Twitter After RNC Trots Out Black Men To Deny Trump’s Racism
Whether through sheer coincidence — or not — “Uncle Tom” was one of the top trending topics on Twitter Tuesday morning following the opening night of the Republican National Convention (RNC) that featured several Black men making the case for Donald Trump to be re-elected.
More than 6,000 “Uncle Tom” tweets were posted following speeches from Democratic Georgia State Rep. Vernon Jones, former professional football star Herschel Walker and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. They each took turns trying to dispel any notion of racism in America or among its leadership despite Trump’s repeated personal demonstrations to the contrary.
“The Democratic Party does not want Black people to leave their mental plantation,” Jones, who has been called an “embarrassment” to Democrats, said Monday night at the RNC. “We’ve been forced to be there for decades and generations. But I have news for Joe Biden: We are free. We are free people with free minds.”
Walker, who was one of Trump’s employees when he played in the USFL — another of Trump’s failed business ventures — said his “soul” was hurt when he learned people called the president racist.
“I take it as a personal insult that people think I would have a 37-year friendship with a racist,” Walker said Monday night with a straight face during his official endorsement of Trump’s re-election.
“These shots pierce the soul of our nation,” stated Biden on Jacob Blake shooting
Former Vice President and Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden issued a statement Monday morning on the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
“Yesterday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back as police attempted to restrain him from getting into his car,” the statement reads. “His children watched from inside the car and bystanders watched in disbelief. And this morning, the nation wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another Black American is a victim of excessive force. This calls for an immediate, full and transparent investigation and the officers must be held accountable.”
A short video circulating on social media shows a man, presumably Blake, walking toward a vehicle. The video shows that police shoot the man in the back as he opened the driver’s door of the car.
“These shots pierce the soul of our nation,” stated Biden. “Jill and I pray for Jacob’s recovery and for his children.”
“Equal justice has not been real for Black Americans and so many others,” the statement continues. “We are at an inflection point. We must dismantle systemic racism. It is the urgent task before us. We must fight to honor the ideals laid in the original American promise, which we are yet to attain: That all men and women are created equal, but more importantly that they must be treated equally.”
Protests erupted after the shooting Sunday. Fires were set to dumpsters meant to block off roads in the area. The Kenosha County Courthouse and Administration Building were both closed Monday due to overnight damage from the unrest.