Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli asserted Tuesday that the poem emblazoned on the Statue of Liberty pedestal in New York Harbor referred specifically to immigrants from Europe.
Cuccinelli initially faced criticism after he told NPR the poem meant, “Give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” Cuccinelli was responding to whether new “public charge” immigration rules being promoted by President Trump would be in line with the ethos espoused by New Colossus, the poem engraved in bronze on the Statue of Liberty.
The 1883 poem by Emma Lazarus says in its most frequently quoted passage, “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.”
“Well, of course, that poem was referring back to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies, where people were considered ‘wretched’ if they weren’t in the right class … it was written one year after the first federal public charge rule was written,” Cuccinelli said in a Tuesday night appearance with Erin Burnett on CNN.
Cuccinelli further described the public charge rule as prohibiting those unable to care for themselves as being granted entry to the United States.
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