Published: Wed, August 14, 2019

Trump immigration official Ken Cuccinelli tweaks the Statue of Liberty poem

Trump immigration official Ken Cuccinelli tweaks the Statue of Liberty poem

The last part of the poem by Lazarus on the statue's pedestal reads: "Give me your exhausted, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore".

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, speaks during a briefing at the White House on August 12 in Washington.

When Cuccinelli announced the change on Monday, CBS News Radio correspondent Steven Portnoy asked him if he stood by the words on the Statue of Liberty.

He said the welcoming words from the 1903 plaque at the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your exhausted, your poor", were put there "at nearly the same time" as when the first public charge law was passed - in 1882.

The Los Angeles Times reports described the step as one of the administration's most aggressive move and that it targets legal immigration. While federal law enables immigration officials to determine whether applicants will be a burden, the new rule breaks down exactly who will be considered a "public charge".

When NRP asked if these words are still part of the American ethos, Cuccinelli replied, "Give me your exhausted and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge". "A poor person can be prepared to be self-sufficient", he said.

Trump made the call in a thread of Twitter on Sunday, July 14, in which he said the congresswomen of colour originally came from countries whose governments are the most corrupt and inept in the world.


When asked if Lazarus' words on the Statue of Liberty - "Give me your exhausted, your poor" - were still a part of the American ethos, Cuccinelli responded: "They certainly are", before adding that any "tired and poor" people who came to the US should be able to "stand on their own two feet" and not "become a public charge". National Review notes that "the rule change will affect those migrants seeking to enter the USA and those who entered the country illegally but wish to obtain legal status".

Later on Tuesday, Trump weighed in on Cuccinelli's additions to the poem.

Those who do not meet income standards or who are deemed likely to rely on benefits such as Medicaid (government-run healthcare) or housing vouchers in future may be blocked from entering the country.

Give me your exhausted, your poor ... but not too poor.

Asked about Mr Cuccinelli's remarks on Tuesday, President Trump did not directly respond to the Statue of Liberty quote, but said: "I don't think it's fair to have the American taxpayer pay for people to come into the United States".

Then he clarified. "It is a privilege to become an American, not a right for anybody who is not already an American citizen, that's what I was referring to".

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