While being questioned about President Donald Trump’s immigration efforts, White House aide Stephen Miller on Wednesday denied that “The New Colossus,” the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, had any meaning because it was added after the statue was erected.
During the daily White House press briefing, Miller expanded on a new Senate bill pertaining to immigration reform that would favor English-speaking applicants.
CNN’s Jim Acosta questioned Miller about whether that bill is “keeping with American tradition” and cited the most famous portion of “The New Colossus”: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Miller brushed off Acosta’s reference, arguing that the poem written by Emma Lazarus was “added later” and has no significance.
“I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty and lighting in the world; 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 Statue of Liberty,” Miller argued.
It’s true that “The New Colossus,” which was never intended to be a statement of political policy, was added to the Statue of Liberty in 1903 and that the statue itself was dedicated in 1886. But they are widely associated with each other: The poem was written to help raise funds for the statue’s pedestal and is currently featured on a bronze tablet in the museum in the base of the Statue of Liberty. Sections of the National Park Service’s website about the statue are devoted to the poem and Lazarus.
The poem was often cited earlier this year as Trump tried to ban people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
During a rally against the travel ban, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the poem “a statement of values of our country.”
“It’s a recognition that the strength of our country is in our diversity, that the revitalization constantly of America comes from our immigrant population,” she said.
In a 2011 poll by the Roper Center, 61 percent of Americans said they felt the Statue of Liberty’s message should apply to immigration policy.