AP Photo/Steve Helber
Acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli has been an immigration hardliner for much of his political career.
He is currently facing scrutiny for rolling out a new "public charge" rule that would deny green cards for visa holders using or expected to use public benefits like food stamps and Medicaid.
On NPR, Cuccinelli re-imaged the famous Emma Lazurus poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty to say, "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."
As a Virginia state senator, Cuccinelli introduced a resolution calling on Congress to repeal birthright citizenship.
He also introduced a bill allowing companies to fire employees on the basis of not speaking English.
Acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli is currently in hot water for re-imagining the famous poem written on the Statue of Liberty as only welcoming self-sufficient immigrants, but he's been an immigration hardliner for much of his political career.
In making the comments, Cuccinelli was defending USCIS's highly controversial new "public charge" rule. Under this new rule, USCIS will deny green cards to legal US residents and visa holders currently using or expected to use government benefits including food stamps, Medicaid, or housing reform.
Cuccinelli has since made a number of media appearances defending the rule, which has been highly criticized for preferring wealthy immigrants for green card status.
In a Tuesday appearance on NPR, Cuccinelli was asked whether he agreed that the famous poem by Emma Lazurus engraved on the Statue of Liberty which reads "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore" is representative of "the American ethos."
"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,'" Cuccinelli responded, offering his own adapted version of the poem.
Then, on CNN's "Outfront with Erin Burnett," Cuccinelli argued the poem was written about "people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies where people were considered wretched if they weren't from the right class."
Cuccinelli, who previously served as a state senator from Virginia and the state's attorney general, has pushed hardline positions on immigration for well over a decade.
His efforts included introducing a joint resolution to call for Congress to convene a constitutional convention to amend the 14th amendment of the US constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship and only extend citizenship to people born in the US who have at least one US citizen parent.
Cuccinelli also introduced a draconian bill that would have allowed Virginia companies to fire employees for speaking a language other than English in the workplace and disqualify them from receiving unemployment benefits.
Then-majority leader Dick Salsaw called the proposal "the most mean-spirited piece of legislation I have seen in my 30 years down here," as the Washington Post reported at the time.
As Virginia's attorney general, Cuccinelli's office filed an amicus brief along with eight other states opposing the Obama administration's lawsuit against Arizona's controversial immigration law SB1070, which was best known for mandating that police officers verify the immigration status of people they stop or arrest if there is "reasonable suspicion" the person was in the US illegally.
Cuccinelli was appointed to be acting director of USCIS in May of 2019. In that time, he has sought to expedite asylum screenings and encouraged officers to crack down on "frivolous" asylum claims by reducing the number of asylees granted entry for a screening, Buzzfeed's Hamed Aleaziz reported.