A White House press briefing is an unusual place to stage a battle over the Statue of Liberty, but so is life in the Trump era.
There was much consternation among the chattering class after the Trump administration announced Wednesday it was supporting a plan to significantly reduce legal immigration. The White House sent out the president’s senior adviser Stephen Miller to make the case for this proposal to the press corps.
CNN reporter Jim Acosta took it upon himself to voice liberal disapproval of the plan and attacked it as a violation of American values. Acosta’s reasoning was based entirely on upholding the Statue of Liberty poem as the final word on immigration policy — a piece of literature that is neither U.S. law nor a founding document of the country.
In his rebuttal, Miller pointed out the historical fact that the poem — written by Emma Lazarus — was not originally included on the statue’s base at its unveiling. (RELATED: Stephen Miller Embarrasses ‘Cosmopolitan’ Jim Acosta For Stereotyping Immigrants)
That recitation of historical fact angered numerous pundits — both liberals and immigration booster conservatives — and Miller was barraged with a deluge of accusations that he was un-American and a white nationalist. (RELATED: Twitter Says Statue Of Liberty Poem ‘Technically’ Might Not Be Law)
All because the White House policy adviser essentially said the Statue of Liberty poem does not determine immigration policy. Miller’s detractors strongly disagree with that statement of fact.
In January, I wrote how many within America’s chattering class treat Lazarus’s poem as akin to a founding document and were using it at the time to criticize Trump’s travel ban. (RELATED: The Statue Of Liberty Poem Is Now A Weapon In America’s Culture War)
As I wrote then:
For liberals who gush over “The New Colossus” sonnet, America is only great because of its newcomers. Implied in all the hysteria around Trump’s executive orders is that immigration is the core principle of the United States. Any restrictions placed on it is an affront to American values, which happen to be best expressed by one Emma Lazarus.
There is no real culture for immigrants to assimilate to either, contrary to [Theodore] Roosevelt’s demands. America is just about abstract principles that the whole world can subscribe to — no matter their allegiances or willingness to speak English.
What is most concerning about the recitation of the Lazarus poem as the final word of immigration is how it imagines America as defined by the eternal outsider. We can only be truly America if we welcome the stranger in our midst with no hesitation. The new arrivals are needed to replace the bad-old citizens, who are apparently less American than the immigrants who just arrived.
Acosta and his supporters lived up to this characterization to a T.
The CNN reporter specifically argued with the White House wanting immigrants to know English and prioritizing high-skilled migrants in its proposal. That argument implies we should accept all newcomers regardless of their language proficiency and skill set. To want those standards is to declare yourself as un-American, according to Acosta.
The reporter also tussled with Miller over the very idea of limiting the number of immigrants coming to this country. Miller adroitly ripped Acosta’s arguments to shreds by pointing to numerous other times in American history where the flow of immigrants was significantly lower than it is today. “So you’re saying one million is the Statue of Liberty number? Nine hundred thousand violates it, 800,000 violates it?” Miller replied to Acosta’s claims.
The underlying belief of those dismayed by the immigration reduction is that America must always have at least a million immigrants come to this nation every year — for some unknown reason. That’s on top of the elite consensus that at least 11 million illegal immigrants deserve a path to citizenship and our refugee intake should be dramatically increased.
Any limit to immigration is a violation of our founding principles, according to this logic. This is more easily believed if you are like Jim Acosta and refuse to read up on the history of American immigration policy.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol was another political figure who was offended by Miller’s comments. Kristol made a strawman of “nationalists” who admire American monuments while hating the Statue of Liberty.
The conservative commentator frequently promotes immigration for its ability to replace the “lazy” and less reliable citizenry with new faces. As a criticism of Tucker Carlson wondering in June why we want migrants from failing nations to come here, Kristol stated: “Because these hard-working & grateful immigrants, & their kids, have often contributed more to America than the heirs of old & tired elites.”
In February, the pundit said what makes America great is that new waves of people can migrate here and replace the “lazy” and “decadent” white working class. Kristol clearly endorses the point stated in my earlier column on the Statue of Liberty that, “The new arrivals are needed to replace the bad-old citizens, who are apparently less American than the immigrants who just arrived.” (RELATED: Bill Kristol Says ‘Lazy’ White Working Class Should Be Replaced By ‘New Americans’)
The White House’s bid to reduce legal immigration is coming up against the fervently believed dogma that any limitation on migration is the equivalent of razing the Statue of Liberty. The punditocracy imagines open borders are included in the Constitution, and they have no qualms about citing an unrelated poem to buttress their assumption.
The battle over the proposal to limit immigration will only get fiercer in upcoming months and we are all but assured to hear these arguments against it ad nauseam. The real question is how will the America people react to their leaders endorsing open borders and calling anyone who disagrees anti-American.