Trump's top immigration official reworks the words on the Statue of Liberty

By Jason Silverstein

/ CBS News

Cuccinelli tweaks Statue of Liberty poem

The Trump administration's top immigration official reworked the famous words on the Statue of Liberty in an interview Tuesday, saying America will only embrace immigrants who can "stand on their own two feet" and "not become a public charge." His comment comes a day after the administration announced a new rule that will reject green cards for immigrants who might rely on government assistance.

NPR's Rachel Martin asked Ken Cuccinelli, the acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, if he agreed that the words etched on the Statue of Liberty are part of the American ethos. The poem, written by Emma Lazarus, says: "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!"

"Uh, they certainly are," Cuccinelli replied. "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."

Immigration More

More in Immigration

Cuccinelli also made the claim that Lazarus' words were put on the Statue of Liberty "at almost the same time" that the U.S. passed its first "public charge" rule for immigration, which he called "very interesting timing" — though he didn't get the timing exactly right. The first public charge law in the U.S. was codified in 1882. Lazarus' poem, "The New Colossus," was written in 1883, and a plaque with her words was not cast on the Statue of Liberty until 1903.

The Trump administration's new "public charge" rule will make it more difficult for low-income immigrants to secure permanent residency or temporary visas if they are deemed likely to rely on welfare benefits, such as food stamps or subsidized housing. It is a substantial expansion of America's longstanding "public charge" laws, which can restrict immigration for foreigners who are determined to be burdens on taxpayers.

Studies by the Urban Institute said millions of American-born children of immigrants will be affected the new rule, and it could lead to families avoiding public benefits they need out of fear that it could hurt their immigration status.

Trump administration's "public charge" rule targets poorer immigrants

The new rule is set to go into effect October 15.

When Cuccinelli announced the change on Monday, CBS News Radio correspondent Steven Portnoy asked him if he stood by the words on the Statue of Liberty.

"Is that sentiment ― 'Give us your tired, your poor' ― still operative in the United States, or should those words come down?" Portnoy asked.

"I'm certainly not prepared to take anything down off the Statue of Liberty," Cuccinelli replied.

Trump administration officials have been challenged before about the Statue of Liberty poem after announcing immigration restrictions. In August 2017, senior advisor Stephen Miller was asked about the poem after he promoted a skills-based immigration proposal that would evaluate prospective green card holders on their level of education, English-speaking ability and other factors. Miller, one of the administration's most hardline immigration opponents, downplayed the importance of the poem.

"I don't want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world," Miller said. "It's a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you're referring to was added later, it's not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty."

First published on August 13, 2019 / 12:38 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Trump's top immigration official reworks Statue of Liberty poem

"Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge," said Ken Cuccinelli

10M ago statue-of-liberty-sunset-silhouette-promo.jpg 0811-en-epstein-lenghi-1909861-640x360.jpg

Corrections officers may have falsified reports they checked on Epstein

Epstein was taken off suicide watch about one week after an apparent attempt to hang himself

updated 54M ago 0811-en-epstein-lenghi-1909861-640x360.jpg cedric marks

Prosecutors seek death penalty against MMA fighter

Cedric Marks was indicted for the murders of Jenna Scott, 28, and Michael Swearingin, 32, two friends who were killed Jan. 3 at a home in Texas

1H ago cedric marks 2016 NBCUniversal Summer Press Day

USA Network stars indicted on tax evasion charges

Todd Chrisley posted on Instagram on Monday a denial of any wrongdoing and alleged a former employee was "stealing from us big time"

1H ago 2016 NBCUniversal Summer Press Day Micah Wooten

Hospital honors Marine who missed his graduation for surgery

After surviving boot camp, Micah Wooten was looking forward to graduation — until he had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery

1H ago Micah Wooten statue-of-liberty-sunset-silhouette-promo.jpg

Trump's top immigration official reworks Statue of Liberty poem

"Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge," said Ken Cuccinelli

10M ago statue-of-liberty-sunset-silhouette-promo.jpg Trump

Trump makes his case for reelection in Pennsylvania

"In 2020, we're running, so you'd better get out there and make sure we win," the president told his crowd at a Pennsylvania plant

3H ago Trump Congress Schumer

Schumer says border wall money should be used to fight gun violence

The Senate minority leader will make a formal request to redirect money that would be used to build a border wall

5H ago Congress Schumer ap-18181692026985.jpg

California counties sue to block Trump immigration rule

The rule would make it easier for the government to reject green cards and temporary visas for legal immigrants who use public benefits

6H ago ap-18181692026985.jpg Donald Trump in Pennsylvania

Trump touts American energy at Pennsylvania plant

Critics claim the plant will significantly contribute to air pollution

1H ago Donald Trump in Pennsylvania Police clash with anti-government protesters at the airport in Hong Kong,

Riot police clash with protesters at Hong Kong airport

Chinese security forces mass at border of semi-autonomous city in ominous display of power as Beijing calls protests an "existential threat"

2H ago Police clash with anti-government protesters at the airport in Hong Kong, BMW Q2 Net Profit Drops 29 Percent On Higher Technology Spend

Man pushes BMW into river because he wanted a Jaguar

He was apparently so upset that he deliberately pushed the luxury vehicle into a canal

5H ago BMW Q2 Net Profit Drops 29 Percent On Higher Technology Spend Russia Rocket Explosion

Evacuation reports spark confusion after Russia nuclear accident

Blast in far north left 5 Russian scientists and 2 troops dead, and is believed to be linked to experimental nuclear-powered missile technology

8H ago Russia Rocket Explosion US-ECONOMY-NYSE-STOCKS-MARKETS

Stock market surges after U.S. delays some China tariffs

The Dow jumped more than 400 points after tariffs were delayed on products like cell phones and gaming consoles

9H ago US-ECONOMY-NYSE-STOCKS-MARKETS Christmas ornaments made in China are se

U.S. delays some China tariffs, cancels others

Trump administration is pushing back new levies on items including laptops, cell phones, shoes and holiday lights

4H ago Christmas ornaments made in China are se 0813-en-placidodomingo-creid-1911433-640x360.jpg

Entertainment

Plácido Domingo accused of harassment

One of the world's leading opera stars is accused of sexual harassment. The allegations against Plácido Domingo span three decades. Chip Reid spoke to one of Domingo's accusers.

updated 40M ago 02:05 0813-en-placidodomingo-creid-1911433-640x360.jpg Plácido Domingo

Retired singer details alleged harassment by Plácido Domingo

Eight singers and one dancer have accused Plácido Domingo of harassment

2H ago Plácido Domingo Jay-Z

NFL and Jay-Z join forces for entertainment and social activism

The league will use the rapper's company to "strengthen community through music and the NFL's Inspire Change Initiative"

3H ago Jay-Z Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift sends fan $6,000 for tuition

"Ayesha, get your learn on, girl!" Swift wrote with the money transfer

3H ago Taylor Swift Plácido Domingo

Plácido Domingo a longtime sexual harasser, several women allege

At least nine women detailed allegations to AP about the opera legend spanning three decades. Some say he retaliated if spurned; he says charges are "inaccurate" and "painful"

3H ago Plácido Domingo rtx2z6n2.jpg

Apple lifted by delay in U.S. tariffs on China

With the tech company set to roll out its latest iPhones in September, higher levies on Chinese imports would hurt

3H ago rtx2z6n2.jpg Amazon Echo

Teens forced to work overtime to make Amazon devices: report

Amazon said it's investigating a report that Foxconn allegedly made Chinese teens to work overtime, violating laws

Aug 12 Amazon Echo hearing-aid-device-promo.jpg

Hearing aids: You ain't heard nothing yet

Only about 20% of adults with hearing loss actually use hearing aids, but advances in technology and a new law may drive down prices – and be music to consumers' ears

Aug 11 hearing-aid-device-promo.jpg Apple iPhone XS and XS Max

Apple offers $1 million reward to anyone who can hack an iPhone

Apple is expanding its bug bounty program — and it's no longer invite-only

Aug 9 Apple iPhone XS and XS Max cbsn-fusion-are-video-games-at-center-of-shooting-controversy-thumbnail-1906404-640x360.jpg

Video games don't make you a mass shooter, expert says

"When it comes to actual serious criminal violence, there's virtually no evidence that video games matter," Virginia Tech professor James Ivory told CBS News

Aug 9 cbsn-fusion-are-video-games-at-center-of-shooting-controversy-thumbnail-1906404-640x360.jpg US-astronomy-meteor-Perseid

How to watch the Perseid meteor shower peak Monday night

Anyone trying to watch the Perseid meteor shower should try to stay away from bright city lights

Aug 12 US-astronomy-meteor-Perseid coffee-cup-promo.jpg

Almanac: Instant coffee

On August 11, 1903, Japanese-American chemist Satori Kato received a U.S. patent for his method of making instant coffee in tablet form

Aug 11 coffee-cup-promo.jpg ap16153622242521.jpg

Climate change and overfishing increasing mercury levels in fish

Climate change "is not just about what the weather is like in 10 years," said researcher Amina Schartup. "It's also about what's on your plate in the next five."

Aug 10 ap16153622242521.jpg 1000-1.jpg

India plants 220 million trees in a single day

More than a million people in Northern India came together Friday to combat climate change

Aug 9 1000-1.jpg chenrobyl-vodka.jpg

Scientists distill vodka from Chernobyl's radioactive zone

Shots, anyone?

Aug 9 chenrobyl-vodka.jpg US-INDUSTRY-TOBACCO-HEALTH-TEENS

Juul accused of marketing to teens in new lawsuit

Juul issued a statement saying the company has "never marketed to youth and do not want non-nicotine users, especially youth, to ever try our product"

2H ago US-INDUSTRY-TOBACCO-HEALTH-TEENS istock000060422752medium.jpg

Controlling blood pressure may help ward off dementia

Keeping your blood pressure under control "may be a key to your future brain health," researchers say

2H ago istock000060422752medium.jpg teen-vaping-moenc-1564072780-142308-blog-teen-vaping-e-cigarette.png

More teens hospitalized for lung damage after vaping

Smokers usually don't develop lung cancer until their older adult years — how are teens getting lung damage from vapes already?

5H ago teen-vaping-moenc-1564072780-142308-blog-teen-vaping-e-cigarette.png dentures.jpg

Dentures found lodged inside man's throat 8 days after surgery

After the dentures were removed, he remained in the hospital for six more days and suffered a few more complications before healing

2H ago dentures.jpg 0813-ctm-feresdoctrine-crawford-1910843-640x360.jpg

Soldier with cancer fights to change law shielding military from malpractice suits

Army Sgt. Richard Stayskal alleges that military doctors knew about a tumor growing in his lung — but said nothing

13H ago 0813-ctm-feresdoctrine-crawford-1910843-640x360.jpg rtx2z6n2.jpg

Apple lifted by delay in U.S. tariffs on China

With the tech company set to roll out its latest iPhones in September, higher levies on Chinese imports would hurt

3H ago rtx2z6n2.jpg FILE PHOTO: Shari Redstone, vice-chair of CBS Corporation and Viacom, attends the annual Allen and Co. Sun Valley media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho

CBS and Viacom agree to $30 billion media merger

Once married, then divorced, now to be reunited: The two companies, both controlled by Shari Redstone, hope bigger will be better the second time around as other media giants consolidate

2H ago FILE PHOTO: Shari Redstone, vice-chair of CBS Corporation and Viacom, attends the annual Allen and Co. Sun Valley media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho Pasta variation

Unlimited pasta "for life" at Olive Garden for $500

The $500 lifetime pass could pay for itself after 45 heaping helpings of pasta at the restaurant chain.

8H ago Pasta variation US-ECONOMY-NYSE-STOCKS-MARKETS

Stock market surges after U.S. delays some China tariffs

The Dow jumped more than 400 points after tariffs were delayed on products like cell phones and gaming consoles

9H ago US-ECONOMY-NYSE-STOCKS-MARKETS Christmas ornaments made in China are se

U.S. delays some China tariffs, cancels others

Trump administration is pushing back new levies on items including laptops, cell phones, shoes and holiday lights

4H ago Christmas ornaments made in China are se 0813-cbsn-tnabortionbanhearing-1911523-640x360.jpg

Crime

Tennessee pushes for total abortion ban

Tennessee lawmakers engaged in a heated exchange with witnesses during a hearing on a total abortion ban for the state. CBS News reporter Kate Smith joined CBSN to discuss what she witnessed during the hearing.

updated 11M ago 03:32 0813-cbsn-tnabortionbanhearing-1911523-640x360.jpg 0811-en-epstein-lenghi-1909861-640x360.jpg

Corrections officers may have falsified reports they checked on Epstein

Epstein was taken off suicide watch about one week after an apparent attempt to hang himself

updated 54M ago 0811-en-epstein-lenghi-1909861-640x360.jpg cedric marks

Prosecutors seek death penalty against MMA fighter

Cedric Marks was indicted for the murders of Jenna Scott, 28, and Michael Swearingin, 32, two friends who were killed Jan. 3 at a home in Texas

1H ago cedric marks 2016 NBCUniversal Summer Press Day

USA Network stars indicted on tax evasion charges

Todd Chrisley posted on Instagram on Monday a denial of any wrongdoing and alleged a former employee was "stealing from us big time"

1H ago 2016 NBCUniversal Summer Press Day 0813-en-childvictim-battiste-1911407-640x360.jpg

Victims of abuse seek justice with New York act

A new statute of limitations will soon take effect in New York. Victims of child sexual abuse will get a one year window to file a civil lawsuit, regardless of their age now. Nikki Battiste reports.

1H ago 02:09 0813-en-childvictim-battiste-1911407-640x360.jpg US-astronomy-meteor-Perseid

How to watch the Perseid meteor shower peak Monday night

Anyone trying to watch the Perseid meteor shower should try to stay away from bright city lights

Aug 12 US-astronomy-meteor-Perseid ebbdvtjx4aacxou.jpg

A meteor large enough to see from Earth just hit Jupiter

The rare moment was captured with nothing more than a backyard telescope in Texas

Aug 9 ebbdvtjx4aacxou.jpg cbsn-fusion-saturn-rings-disappearing-nasa-2019-08-06-thumbnail-1906783-640x360.jpg

Saturn's rings are disappearing

NASA's Cassini spacecraft ended its historic exploration of Saturn in 2017 and, slowly but surely, scientists are learning more about the ringed planet. Data from the 13-year mission helped scientists determine Saturn's rings are much newer than the planet itself — and they're disappearing.

Aug 6 00:42 cbsn-fusion-saturn-rings-disappearing-nasa-2019-08-06-thumbnail-1906783-640x360.jpg cbsn-fusion-spacex-falcon-9-rocket-launch-today-2019-08-06-thumbnail-1906760-640x360.jpg

SpaceX successfully launches rocket

Three years after a spectacular on-pad explosion that destroyed an Israeli communications satellite, SpaceX boosted a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit Tuesday night. The satellite will provide broadcast, broadband and high-speed data services across Africa. Watch the launch here.

Aug 7 08:45 cbsn-fusion-spacex-falcon-9-rocket-launch-today-2019-08-06-thumbnail-1906760-640x360.jpg spacex-launch-today-2019-08-06-d.png

SpaceX launches rocket with communications satellite on board

Three years after an on-pad explosion, SpaceX got a second Israeli satellite into orbit Thursday night

Aug 6 spacex-launch-today-2019-08-06-d.png 1slide-the-worst-movies-of-2019-ranked.jpg

The worst movies of 2019

The worst films of the year star big name actors, including Keanu Reeves, Anne Hathaway, and Chris Hemsworth.

Aug 9 51 photos 1slide-the-worst-movies-of-2019-ranked.jpg jake-barlow-oddities-and-curiosities-expo-39.jpg

The Oddities & Curiosities Expo

A traveling exhibition of gothic and occult art, sideshow performers, and bizarre specimens stopped outside Chicago, where CBS News photographer Jake Barlow took in the odd sights

Jul 22 24 photos jake-barlow-oddities-and-curiosities-expo-39.jpg gettyimages-486106944.jpg

New York's Central Park

America's first major landscaped public park, the 840-acre park in Manhattan welcomes more than 37 million visitors every year

Jul 21 25 photos gettyimages-486106944.jpg Charles Manson

Manson Family murders: The terrifying story in pictures

A look at the cult slayings that shocked – and scared – America

Jul 3 44 photos Charles Manson star-trek.jpg

New on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon

Shows and movies you'll want to stream soon

Jun 24 30 photos star-trek.jpg wright-911-call-1567128-640x360.jpg

Popular

NBA star's desperate call for help

Listen to former NBA star Lorenzen Wright’s frantic 911 call made on the night in 2010 that he was murdered. Wright was unable to give his name or location as 11 gunshots are heard before the call cuts out. It took days for authorities to learn that it was Wright who made the call.

Jul 27 00:40 wright-911-call-1567128-640x360.jpg wright-murder-plot-1567134-640x360.jpg

The alleged plot to kill Lorenzen Wright

Prosecutor Paul Hagerman reads an affidavit about informant Jimmie Martin who claims he helped plan the murder of Lorenzen Wright. Martin is Sherra Wright’s cousin. Martin claims he wasn’t there the night of the murder, but says he did help clean up the crime scene.

Jul 27 01:37 wright-murder-plot-1567134-640x360.jpg lulu-arrest-1683015-640x360.jpg

Body cam video captures murder-for-hire suspect's arrest

On July 23, 2015, detectives with the Montgomery County Texas Constable's Office arrive at the Houston gym owned by Ramon Sosa and his wife, Lulu, to arrest Lulu on suspicion of plotting her husband's death.

Jul 20 03:29 lulu-arrest-1683015-640x360.jpg leibel-kasian-1674771-640x360.jpg

Sneak peek: Hollywood Horror Story

A wealthy Hollywood producer is accused of murdering his girlfriend. Was he following the plot of his frightening novel? Correspondent Maureen Maher investigates Saturday, July 13 at 10/9c on CBS.

Jul 13 03:37 leibel-kasian-1674771-640x360.jpg kasian-911-call-1674933-640x360.jpg

A mother's desperate 911 call

When Olga Kasian did not hear from her daughter Iana after several days, she began repeatedly calling 911. Concerned about Iana's well-being and her recent C-section, Kasian desperately asks police — through the help of an Russian interpreter — to enter the home her daughter shared with boyfriend Blake Leibel.

Jul 20 01:14 kasian-911-call-1674933-640x360.jpg

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here