Acting Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli is a poetry revisionist, apparently.
In an interview on Tuesday morning with NPR's Morning Edition, Cuccinelli spoke with host Rachel Martin about a new Trump administration rule — "The Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds" policy — that could make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain a green card or U.S. citizenship if they are deemed likely to become reliant on government benefits.
Cuccineli made the case that it's not too much to ask for immigrants coming into the United States to not rely on the government for government assistance. He said that it's a longstanding tradition in the U.S. that people who can "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" are welcome, but that "no one has the right to be an American" if they aren't born in the country. He called it a privilege instead.
Martin asked if the words from Emma Lazarus' poem The New Colossus, which are engraved on a plaque on the Statue of Liberty, are also "part of the American ethos." Cuccinelli said they "certainly" are, but he tweaked them. "'Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge," he replied.
That section of the poem actually reads "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." There is no mention of government assistance on the plaque. Listen to the interview at NPR.