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.
The immigration bill that would offer a chance of citizenship to millions living in the US illegally has taken a stride forward in Congress.
A Senate panel voted 13-5 to back the measure, after a plan to allow people to sponsor same-s** partners for permanent legal status was withdrawn.
The full Senate will now debate the proposal next month.
The bill is widely seen as the biggest overhaul of US immigration policy in more than a quarter of a century.
But lawmakers’ last attempt at immigration reform was more recent – a bipartisan bill failed in the Senate in 2007.
After Tuesday evening’s vote, immigration activists who had crowded into the Senate judiciary committee room cheered.
In a statement, President Barack Obama congratulated the panel.
Barack Obama said the bill was “largely consistent with the principles of common sense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system”.
The president added he was “hopeful” the amendment process would “lead to further improvements”.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not block the measure from coming to the floor for a full debate, but did not say how he planned to vote.
Three Republicans joined all 10 Democrats on the committee in voting for the bill.
The immigration bill that would offer a chance of citizenship to millions living in the US illegally has taken a stride forward in Congress
Approval came after committee members agreed to a Republican move to ease visa restrictions on hiring skilled workers from countries such as China and India.
The Democratic chairman of the committee, Patrick Leahy, also withdrew an amendment that would have allowed people to sponsor same-sex partners, who are foreigners, for permanent legal status.
“I don’t want to be the senator who asks people to choose between the love of their life and the love of their country,” Senator Patrick Leahy said.
The bill’s supporters had asked him to remove the proposal in order to save the legislation.
“I believe in my heart of hearts that what you’re doing is the right and just thing,” Democrat Senator Richard Durbin said.
“But I believe this is the wrong moment, that this is the wrong bill.”
At the centre of the legislation is a provision that would allow the estimated 11 million people living in the US illegally to obtain “registered provisional immigrant status”, six months after the bill’s enactment if certain conditions are met.
That status is the beginning of a 13-year process that would one day allow immigrants to be eligible to apply for a green card.
The bill also includes provisions to strengthen border security along the US-Mexican border, using additional agents and drones.
The president of the powerful AFL-CIO union group, Rich Trumka, attacked the last-minute deal allowing an increase in the number visas for hi-tech specialists as “anti-worker”.
But he said organized labor would continue to support the larger bill.
In the other chamber of Congress, the House of Representatives, immigration legislation is due to receive a hearing in the judiciary committee on Wednesday.
The latest push for reform follows Barack Obama’s announcement last June that the US would allow young undocumented workers who immigrated as children to apply for two-year, renewable visas.
Republicans have increasingly embraced the idea of immigration reform after a large majority of Hispanic voters supported Barack Obama in last year’s election.
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