During the White House press briefing on Wednesday, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller went off on CNN’s Jim Acosta after Acosta pressed Miller about the racial implications of a new immigration bill backed by the Trump administration that gives English speakers preferred status.
Acosta, who mentioned that his father emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba in 1962 and obtained a Green Card, pointed out to Miller that “people who emigrate to this country — not through Ellis Island as your family may have but in others ways — do obtain a Green Card at some point, they do it through a lot of hard work, and yes, they may learn English as a second language later on in life, but this whole notion of, ‘Well, they have to learn English before they get to the United States’ — are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?”
Acosta’s question caused Miller to quickly lose his cool.
“Jim, I have to honestly say, I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people form Great Britain and Australia would know English,” Miller said. “It’s actually — it reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree that in your mind — no, this is an amazing moment, this is an amazing moment — that you think only people from Great Britain or Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hard-working immigrants from all over the world.”
After Acosta interjected to say that the Trump administration’s immigration policy appears to represent an effort “to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country,” Miller characterized his comment as “one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you’ve ever said.”
As Trump discussed during a separate press event earlier Wednesday, the so-called Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act would implement a “competitive application process” for aspiring immigrants that would favor English speakers.
“This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy,” Trump said. “The RAISE Act prevents new immigrants from collecting welfare and protects U.S. workers from being displaced. That’s a very big thing.” (Under current law, most immigrants aren’t eligible for welfare and other public benefits for at least five years.)
Wednesday wasn’t the first time Acosta has been targeted by Trump. During a news conference Trump held shortly before the inauguration, he refused to take a question from Acosta, saying CNN “is terrible” and adding, “you are fake news.”
At the time, Trump was upset by CNN’s reporting about his Russia connections — a story the network has continued to break news about since Trump took office.