White nationalist Trump aide Stephen Miller tried to revise the history of the Statue of Liberty during a combative exchange with CNN’s Jim Acosta today.
Miller had trotted out for the daily White House briefing in order to promote radical new legislation by two Republican congressmen. The RAISE Act would reduce legal immigration by half and end programs that encourage nonwhite immigration, among other changes.
Acosta took issue with the bill’s provisions that would require green card applicants to already speak English and have money or marketable skills. “The Statue of Liberty says — doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer,” Acosta said.
He was referring to the famous poem associated with the Statue of Liberty, which ends: “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Acosta, whose father immigrated to the United States before the Cuban revolution and learned English upon arrival, asked Miller to square the circle. “Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them you have to speak English? Can’t people learn how to speak English when they get here?”
Miller, who was hated by his high school classmates for his outspoken bigotry, tried to explain away the American immigration tradition.
“Well, first of all, right now it’s a requirement that to be naturalized you have to speak English, so the notion that did wouldn’t be would be very unusual,” Miller said, deliberately confusing the issue.
“Secondly,” he continued, “I don’t want to get into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbolic of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to was added later. It’s not actually a part of the original Statue of Liberty…”
Of course, Miller was quite wrong. Emma Lazarus wrote “The New Colossus” in 1883 as a way to raise money for the Statue of Liberty, which arrived from Europe two years later.
Acosta tried to press the point home. “You’re saying that that does not represent what the country has always thought of as immigration coming into this country? That sounds like some National Park revisionism.”
Miller grew testy, speaking over Acosta and accusing the reporter of ignorance as he pontificated from his white supremacist alternate history of American immigration.
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