One of Donald Trump’s top immigration official has offered a revised version of the famous Statue of Liberty inscription which welcomes the world’s poor to justify a new tightening of the rules.
Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, was asked whether the words of Emma Lazarus's The New Colossus poem found at the statute’s base still hold true today.
The poem’s final lines read: “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!"
Mr Cuccinelli said the words “certainly are” still part of the American ethos when challenged in an NPR interview but then went on to give a revised version of them.
"Give me your tired and your poor - who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,” he said.
“Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet."— Eric McDaniel (@ericmcdanieldc) August 13, 2019
Immigration Services head Ken Cuccinelli to @rachelnpr today.
A new rule would make it hard for immigrants who use public benefits to stay in US: https://t.co/Y08iLtCD69
Full ��: https://t.co/z3zHA8CC0Apic.twitter.com/Ppoy9Uur37
The exchange came after the Trump administration announced a new ‘public charge’ regulation that allows legal immigrants to be denied green cards if they are deemed likely to receive certain government-funded benefits in the future.
The policy has faced criticism given will make it harder for poor foreigners to move to America by scrutinising whether they will need benefits such as food stamps, housing support or government-provided healthcare.
Mr Cuccinelli had been thrown the same question about the Statue of Liberty’s inscription in a White House briefing on Monday, on that occasion standing by the pledge but not coming up with a new wording.
“I’m certainly not prepared to take anything down off the Statue of Liberty”, he said then, adding that America had a “long history” of being “one of the most welcoming nations in the world”.
The sonnet, inscribed on a bronze tablet in the museum of the statue’s base, has long been seen as a message to those seeking refuge in America.
The Statue of Liberty is found near New York's Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants were processed in the first half of the 20th century.
Mr Trump sided with Mr Cuccinelli when asked about the comments, saying: "I am tired of seeing our taxpayers paying for people to come into the country and immediately go onto welfare and various other things."
Bill de Blasio, the Democratic mayor of New York City who is seeking his party's 2020 presidential nomination, reacted by saying: "If the Trump administration is suggesting a rewrite, they'll have to take it up with me."