The Statue of Liberty was caught in an exchange between White House adviser Stephen Miller and a CNN reporter after President Donald Trump backed an immigration policy favoring the better-educated.
“The Statue of Liberty says, <Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free>,” CNN’s Jim Acosta told Stephen Miller.
“It doesn’t say anything about speaking English,” Jim Acosta added.
Stephen Miller said the poem on the iconic American statue was “added later”.
The immigration overhaul, backed by President Trump on August 2, would curb the number of permanent, legal migrants allowed in the US each year and prioritize those who can speak English or are highly skilled.
President Trump’s senior policy adviser at the White House, Stephen Miller, said at a press briefing that the policy was “compassionate”.
The question-and-answer session turned into a fiery row as Stephen Miller and Jim Acosta clashed on the issue.
They verbally sparred over the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of freedom and what it represents in relation to US immigration policy.
In response to Jim Acosta’s point about the famous poem, Stephen Miller countered by saying that it was “not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty”.
“The poem that you’re referring to was added later,” he told Jim Acosta.
However, Jim Acosta, visibly unsatisfied with this response, used the daily briefing to accuse the Trump administration of “trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow and people into this country”.
Stephen Miller said the accusation was “outrageous”, describing the policy as “pro-American immigration reform” that enjoyed “immense” support among the public.
“Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you have ever said,” Stephen Miller said.
“The notion that you think this is a racist bill is so wrong and so insulting.”
Stephen Miller said the bill, which also proposes to limit family-based migration to spouses and children, was a step towards realizing the administration’s plan to introduce an Australian-style, points-based immigration system.
The bill still has a long way to go before becoming law and would be likely to face resistance in Congress from members of both parties.
It is not the first time that CNN’s Jim Acosta has raised hackles at the White House. In January he was warned by then incoming press secretary Sean Spicer that he would be banned from future press conferences if he continued to “argue” with President Trump.