“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Or not. During a briefing on Wednesday, a top White House aide said that line was added to Lady Liberty later, so it doesn't really count, in an attempt to bolster President Donald Trump's support for revamping the nation's legal immigration priorities.
During the daily White House briefing, White House aide Stephen Miller was asked how the immigration bill fits with the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty.
"The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world," Miller said. "The poem that you're referring to was added later, it's not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty."
Miller seemed to provoke CNN reporter Jim Acosta, the son of Cuban immigrants, who questioned if the bill is racist. After a back-and-forth, Miller berated Acosta, calling his comments "one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you’ve ever said."
The quote in question comes from Lazarus’ sonnet, New Colossus, which she wrote for in 1883 for a fundraiser auction to raise money for the statue’s pedestal. It was engraved in bronze and added to the pedestal in 1903, 17 years after the statue’s dedication.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The White House is throwing its support behind a bill developed by Republican senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia that would cut legal immigration by 50 percent over 10 years by reducing the kinds of relatives immigrants can bring into the country.
But the legislation faces an uphill climb to get through Congress where some senior Republicans back comprehensive immigration reform, not a tough crackdown.
Under the new bill, known as the RAISE Act, the United States would prioritize high-skilled immigrants by setting up a merits-based system similar to those used by Canada and Australia.
Trump and the Republican lawmakers blasted the current immigration system as out of date and argued that it hurts American workers by driving down wages.
"This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy," Trump said.
The Senators said they worked closely with the White House on this latest version of their bill. "This is probably our third or fourth visit to the Oval Office to work with President Trump," Cotton told reporters.
Reuters contributed to this report.