Senior Trump administration aide Stephen Miller, who writes President Trump's more fiery speeches, sparred with members of the press during Tuesday's White House press briefing. The president and two GOP senators introduced new legislation this morning aiming to transition into a merit-based immigration system.
CNN's Jim Acosta makes the case that such a policy violates the spirit of the Statue of Liberty: "When it comes to immigration, the Statue of Liberty says 'give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free.' It doesn't say anything about speaking English or learning to be a computer programmer. Aren't you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country, if you are telling them you have to speak English. Can't people learn how to speak English when they get here?"
Miller responds: "Right now it is a requirement to be naturalized that you have to speak English, so the notion that speaking English wouldn't be part of your immigration system would be very ahistorical."
He continued, about the Statue of Liberty: "I don't want to get off into a whole thing about history , but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem you are referring to was added later. It is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty."
Acosta interrupts: "You're saying that that does not represent what the country has always thought of as immigration into this country? Stephen, I'm sorry -- That sounds like national park revisionism. The Statue of Liberty as always been a beacon of hope to the world for people to come to this country, and they are not always going to speak English, Stephen. They're not always going to be highly skilled."
"Jim, I appreciate your speech," the White House aide responded. "Let's talk about this. In 1970, when we let in 300,000 people a year, was that violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land? In the 1990s, when it was half a million per year, was it violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land? Tell me what years meet Jim Acosta's definition of the Statue of Liberty poem law of the land."
He continued: "So, you say that a million a year is the Statue of Liberty number. 900,000 or 800,000 a year would violate it.
Acosta responds: "You are sort of bringing a 'Press One For English' philosophy here to immigration, and that is not what the United States is about."
Miller continues: "Your statement is shockingly ahistorical too, you look at the history of immigration. It has ebbed and flowed. We have had periods of large waves and periods of less immigration and more immigration."