CBS Radio correspondent Steve Portno asked Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli during a Monday press conference whether the Trump administration planned to do away with the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Portno, who also serves as president-elect of the White House Correspondents’ Association, was responding to the new administration policy that seeks to deny green cards to immigrants who will be more likely to need assistance from federal government programs.
“As along as the public charge rule as been in effect since the late 1800s there’s also been — almost as long — the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty that read, ‘Give us your tired, your poor,'” Portno began. “You’re implementing a public charge rule for the first time. Is that sentiment, ‘Give us your tired, your poor,’ still operative in the United States or should those words come down? Should the plaque come down on the Statue of Liberty?” (RELATED: Twitter Says Statue Of Liberty Poem ‘Technically’ Might Not Be Law)
Cuccinelli responded that he was “certainly not prepared” to remove anything from the Statue of Liberty.
“Is that sentiment, give us ‘your tired, your poor,’ still operative in the United States, or…should the plaque come down from the Statue of Liberty?”
— ABC News (@ABC) August 12, 2019
Emma Lazarus’s words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” speaks to the true character of what our country can be: a generous country that respects and embraces those who have made the difficult journey to our shores, often fleeing harm.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 11, 2019
But what most fail to acknowledge is that, while the United States accepts approximately 1 million legal immigrants annually — in addition to those who enter the country illegally — Ellis Island only processed 12 million immigrants total over the course of six decades.
Although only about two percent were turned away, the reasons for refusing entry included public health risk due to contagious disease, unacceptable answers to questions like “Are you a Communist?” or “Are you a bigamist?” and a failure to convince officials that, once in America, the immigrants would be able to provide for themselves.
The most common reason for rejection was a concern by immigration officials that the person may become a ward of the state. This could be due to health issues (especially a fairly common eye disease called trachoma, which led to blindness), mental illness or lack of sufficient funds for immigrants to support themselves.