At Wednesday’s White House press briefing, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller was pressed on whether Trump’s new immigration policy was in keeping with the spirit of the poem inscribed at the base of Statute of Liberty.
“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.”
The Trump administration’s new immigration bill, as CNN’s Jim Acosta noted, favors “highly-skilled,” English-speaking applicants.
Miller became angry, replying that the sonnet on the Statue of Liberty was “added later” and therefore, does not reflect American values towards immigrants.
While the argument surprised many observers, it is a popular refrain among white nationalists.
Miller’s comments were greeted enthusiastically by white nationalists on Twitter.
David Duke, a vocal Trump supporter and former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan has devoted an entire chapter in one of his books to Emma Lazarus, the author of the poem, and the Statue of Liberty. Duke says Lazarus was “anxious to turn America into a refuge for the castoffs of the world.”
It was also a point made in January by white nationalist Richard Spencer.
Stormfront.org, a popular website among white supremacists that boasts the tagline, “Every month is White history month,” has a numerous discussion threads on the topic, including one titled, “Give Me Your Huddled Masses — The Jewess who tried to destroy the US!” Contributors to the forum wrote the poem should be “considered graffiti” and stress that Lazarus’ sonnet is “not part of the original” statue at all.
The subreddit for Donald Trump supporters, which frequently pushes white nationalist memes, also has a post titled, “Does everyone realize that the poem inscribed beneath the Statue of Liberty is not, in fact, law?”
“The New Colossus” by Jewish-American poet Emma Lazarus was written in 1883, as many immigrants were moving to the United States through the port of Ellis Island in New York. She wrote the poem to help raise money for the base of statue. The inscribed bronze plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty was added in 1903.
Miller is no stranger to racially-motivated immigration policy. He was one of the fiercest advocates for Trump’s travel ban against immigrants from majority-Muslim countries.