Anyone descended from an immigrant who passed through Ellis Island in New York City at any time after 1886 should be outraged by the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli’s blasphemous rewrite of the poem inscribed on a bronze plaque at the Statue of Liberty — a promise of refuge and solace that greets new arrivals to our nation.
So should every other American descended from immigrants of any sort, meaning everyone except Native Americans who have plenty to be outraged about without this particular burden to bear.
Cuccinelli was being interviewed by NPR’s Rachel Martin about new immigration regulations announced yesterday that deny green cards and visas to legal immigrants if they access or are judged to need any federal, state and local government benefits such as food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid.
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The regulation change was seen by many as an attempt to limit legal immigration into the United States as Trump and his immigrant-hating advisor Stephen Miller have been advocating.
It was when Cuccinelli uttered his bastardized version of the famous Emma Lazurus poem at the Statue of Liberty that the true degradation of traditional American values that this move entails became apparent.
In its original form, the poem — entitled “The New Colossus” – includes the lines etched in the psyches of immigrants and their descendants across the country:
“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!”
“Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,” Cuccinelli spat out vituperatively.
“If they don’t have future prospects of being legal permanent residents without welfare, that will be counted against them,” Cuccinelli said. “All immigrants who can stand on their own two feet, self-sufficient, pull themselves up by their bootstraps” would be welcome, he added.
“No one has a right to become an American who isn’t born here as an American…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.”
Immigration rights advocates are expected to challenge the new regulations in court — with the case possibly rising all the way to the Supreme court — according to Leon Fresco, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration.
“I also expect lawsuits from individuals who say that, at the end of the day, if Congress provided certain benefits to be accessible by certain groups of immigrants, that meant that they did not want them then banned under the public charge rule,” Fresco told NPR.
News of Cuccinelli’s offensive rewrite of a poem that embodies the very ethos of the American dream naturally drew outrage on Twitter where posters attacked the Trump administration for their racist, white nationalist, nativist agenda.
Trump immigration official offers rewrite for Statue of Liberty poem
While we're changing things, let's change the qualifications for US President to exclude Racists, Traitors and Sex Offenders. This is just another episode of Con-Don's American Freak Show.
— Les E Dickey (@LesOregon) August 13, 2019
Statue Of Liberty. What is written on bottom is lie. It needs to say SEND YOUR RICH. And YOUR WHITE PEOPLE.
— Pam Hylton (@HyltonPam) August 13, 2019
It really is stunning that the descendent of Irish and Italian immigrants would so cavalierly attack the immigrant tradition that has made America great.https://t.co/ELqszsOjbj
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) August 13, 2019
Today the Statue of Liberty, tomorrow the constitution
— Ed Ware (@dirtsucker1) August 13, 2019
The Statue of Liberty is our welcome mat to the world, our promise and commitment that anything is possible when we stand for liberty and justice.
— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) August 13, 2019
Sidelined Virginia GOP politician / notably awful former AG @KenCuccinelli has managed to out-scum even himself by altering the Statue of Liberty poem thus: "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."#cuccinelli pic.twitter.com/XrZ75ZNZIO
— Keith Williams (@keithwms) August 13, 2019
There's plenty that Americans can reasonably disagree on but when you're chiseling out the inscription on the Statue of Liberty and replacing it with fascist sloganeering, you're attacking the foundation we all stand on and there's nothing left to do but fight to get rid of you
— Michael T Sweeney (@mtsw) August 13, 2019
That’s the Trump administration for you.
Everyday they provide a new reason as to why they need to be removed from the seat of power as soon as humanly possible to restore our country to its true values of inclusiveness and welcome as a place of refuge for people whose countries don’t afford them the liberties that American can and should provide to all on its shores.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.
Original reporting by Sasha Ingber at NPR.