Stephen Miller, President Trump’s senior adviser for policy, got into a heated argument with the press over — among other things — the Statue of Liberty, while promoting the administration’s plans for immigration reform on Wednesday afternoon.
Miller described Trump’s policy as one that would eliminate chain migration, limit family-based migration and introduce a point-based system that evaluates whether an applicant can speak English, earn a high wage and add a needed skill to the U.S. economy.
The frequently contentious Miller stuck to his message about unskilled, illegal immigration taking jobs from Americans throughout most of the press briefing, which went off the rails during the final question.
Jim Acosta, senior White House correspondent for CNN, quoted from the poem inscribed inside the Statue of Liberty, whose most famous lines read: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Acosta suggested it was “not in keeping with American tradition when it comes to immigration” to require that immigrants already speak English or have useful, in-demand skills.
Miller dismissed the poem as not truly representing the meaning of the statue, which is formally named “Liberty Enlightening the World.”
“The poem that you’re referring to was added later. [It] was not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty,” Miller said, correctly — although the poem, titled “The New Colossus,” was written by Emma Lazarus as part of an appeal to raise money to erect the base of the statue.
Acosta said that answer sounded like “National Park revisionism.”
“They’re not always going to speak English, Stephen. They’re not always going to be highly skilled,” he said.
Miller accused Acosta of being “shockingly ahistorical,” noting that levels of immigration to the United States have ebbed and flowed.
“I want to be serious here, Jim. Do you at CNN not know the difference between green card police and immigration?” he said. “Do you really not know that?”
Acosta, who is Cuban-American, pointed out that his father immigrated to the U.S. in 1962, right before the Cuban missile crisis. He said many people immigrate to this country without passing through Ellis Island but still obtain a green card through hard work, and may learn English as a second language. He was highly…