Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said on Tuesday that the well-known inscription on the Statue of Liberty refers to people migrating from Europe, not people who “are likely to go on welfare.”

“The New Colossus,” the sonnet written by U.S. poet Emma Lazarus, reads:

“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!”

The following stanza appears at the base of Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

In an interview with CNN‘s Erin Burnett, Cuccinelli argued that the poem “referred back to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies…where people were considered wretched if they weren’t in the right class.”

On Monday, President Donald Trump issued a new immigration rule that privileges wealthier immigrants, while targeting those who need may need financial assistance or other public services.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke pointed out that Trump has made it clear that “he wants more immigrants like those from Nordic countries, the whitest places on the face of the planet.”

As ESSENCE previously reported, First Lady Melania Trump née Melanija Knavs, later changed to Melania Knauss, first came to the U.S. from Slovenia in 1996, first using a tourist visa, then a string of working visas until becoming a U.S. citizen in 2006.

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