A day after announcing the Trump administration’s new rule penalizing green-card applicants who use government benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid, acting Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli suggested a Trumpian change to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty.
Appearing on NPR’s Morning Edition on Tuesday, Cuccinelli defended the policy shift, insisting that it was actually a long-standing position by the country to insist that immigrants seeking to settle in America are not a burden on the state.
Arguing that it “doesn’t seem like too much to ask” that “self-sufficiency is central to the American value set,” the former Virginia attorney general went on to say that if any legal immigrants “don’t have future prospects” without welfare, “that will be counted against them.”
After Cuccinelli added that immigrants need to show they can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” NPR host Rachel Martin asked the one-time Virginia gubernatorial candidate about the famous Emma Lazarus poem etched into the Statue of Liberty.
“Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus’ words etched on the Statue of Liberty, ‘give me your tired, your poor,’ are also part of the American ethos?” Martin questioned the Trump official.
“They certainly are,” he replied. “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge."
He also said that it was “very interesting timing” that the Lazarus poem was placed on the Statue of Liberty at the same time as the first “public charge” law related to immigration was passed.
The new Trump policy, which will go into effect in 60 days, will allow the government to deny permanent residency to any immigrants they deem to be a financial burden on society, specifically pointing to an immigrant’s reliance on a number of government programs. Officials can also potentially use an applicant’s income, health and education level to determine eligibility for permanent status.