Cuc­cinelli adds Trump touch to Statue of Lib­erty poem

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Colby Itkowitz

WASHINGTON — Ken Cuc­cinelli, act­ing di­rec­tor of U.S. Ci­ti­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices, said Tues­day that the poem etched on the Statue of Lib­erty wel­com­ing im­mi­grants to Amer­ica should in­clude a line qual­i­fy­ing that they be able to “stand on their own two feet.”

Cuc­cinelli made the com­ments while de­fend­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s an­nounce­ment Mon­day that the gov­ern­ment would con­sider an im­mi­grant’s use of so­cial safety net pro­grams, like Med­i­caid or food stamps, when de­cid­ing their per­ma­nent le­gal sta­tus.

The fa­mous words on the pedestal of the State of Lib­erty, “Give mey­our tired, your poor, your hud­dled masses yearn­ing to breathe free,” were writ­ten by Emma Lazarus in 1883. In re­cent years, it’s taken on new mean­ing as a ral­ly­ing cry against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

Cuc­cinelli, dur­ing an in­ter­view with NPR, ar­gued it’s the “Amer­i­can tra­di­tion” that im­mi­grants wel­comed into the coun­try be those who are “self-suf­fi­cient, can pull them­selves up from their boot­straps.”

“Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus’ words etched on the Statue of Lib­erty, ‘Give me your tired, give me your poor,’ are also a part of the Amer­i­can ethos?” NPR’s Rachel Martin asked Cuc­cinelli.

“They cer­tainly are: ‘Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not be­come a pub­lic charge,’ ” Cuc­cinelli said. “That plaque was put on the Statue of Lib­erty at al­most the same time as the first pub­lic charge was passed — very in­ter­est­ing tim­ing.”

The pub­lic charge rule that Cuc­cinelli is re­fer­ring to takes into ac­count an im­mi­grant’s cur­rent or pos­si­ble future reliance on the gov­ern­ment when re­view­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for per­ma­nent sta­tus. In its cur­rent form, of­fi­cials take into ac­count whether im­mi­grants rely on the gov­ern­ment for more than half of their in­come.

Since the early days of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, of­fi­cials have been work­ing on broad­en­ing that law to in­clude an im­mi­grant’s use of other pub­lic ben­e­fit ser­vices, such as sub­si­dies for health care, food and hous­ing, as rea­son to re­ject an im­mi­grant’s ap­pli­ca­tion for a green card.

The reg­u­la­tion goes into ef­fect Oct. 15.

EVAN VUCCI/AP

Ken Cuc­cinelli would insert “stand on their own two feet” to the 1883 poem.

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