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Cuccinelli: Poem on Statue of Liberty Refers to Europeans

CNN's Erin Burnett pressed Ken Cuccinelli Tuesday night
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2019 6:27 AM CDT
Updated Aug 14, 2019 6:43 AM CDT

(Newser) – Ken Cuccinelli offered up some literary analysis on Tuesday. The acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services first grabbed headlines Tuesday morning when he offered an update to Emma Lazarus' famous poem on the Statue of Liberty during an NPR interview about a major change to immigration law announced a day prior: "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge," he said. In a CNN interview with Erin Burnett that night, USA Today reports he was asked what he thinks "America stands for." The Hill has his response: "Well of course that 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."

He then again referenced the public charge part: "It was written one year ... after the first federal public charge rule was written that says, and I'll quote it, 'Any person unable to take care of himself without becoming a public charge,' would be inadmissible or in the terms that my agency deals with, they can't do what's called adjusting status, getting a green card, becoming legal permanent residents." As for the poem tweak, Cuccinelli said he "wasn't writing poetry," he was just "answering a question." (The question Rachel Martin had posed to him: "Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus's words etched on the Statue of Liberty, 'Give me your tired, give me your poor,' are also a part of the American ethos?") The AP explains the new regulation would make it easier to deny green cards to immigrants who require Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, or other types of public assistance. (Read more Ken Cuccinelli stories.)

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