Presidential adviser Stephen Miller and CNN’s Jim Acosta got into a heated debate at the White House press briefing Wednesday — over whether the Trump Administration was violating the spirit of the Statue of Liberty by backing a tough new immigration proposal.
“When it comes to immigration, the Statue of Liberty says ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free.’ It doesn’t say anything about speaking English or learning to be a computer programmer,” the Cuban-American Acosta declared.
“Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country, if you are telling them you have to speak English. Can’t people learn how to speak English when they get here?”
Miller defended the proposed law, which Trump backed in a White house appearance earlier in the day.
It calls for a crackdown on legal immigration, with the number of Green Cards issued each year slashed from 1 million to 500,000.
The law would also give preference to English speakers with solid job skills.
“Right now it is a requirement to be naturalized that you have to speak English, so the notion that speaking English wouldn’t be part of your immigration system would be very ahistorical,” Miller said.
“I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem you are referring to was added later. It is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty.”
But Acosta would not give in.
“You’re saying that that does not represent what the country has always thought of as immigration into this country? Stephen, I’m sorry — That sounds like national park revisionism. The Statue of Liberty as always been a beacon of hope to the world for people to come to this country, and they are not always going to speak English, Stephen. They’re not always going to be highly skilled.”
The two kept at it.
“Jim, I appreciate your speech. Let’s talk about this. In 1970, when we let in 300,000 people a year, was that violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land?” Miller asked.
“ In the 1990s, when it was half a million per year, was it violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land? Tell me what years meet Jim Acosta’s definition of the Statue of Liberty poem law of the land.”
Acosta then drew Miller’s ire by suggesting the policy was racist.
“Didn’t you grow up in Los…