Poetry News

Emma Lazarus's 'The New Colossus' Causes Rift Between White House Aide & CNN Anchor

By Harriet Staff
Emma Lazarus

Headlines making waves: On Wednesday, CNN reporter Jim Acosta quoted the most famous couplet from Emma Lazarus's 1883 poem "The New Colossus" in a public disagreement with White House senior aide Stephen Miller. Newsweek reports on the story:

Acosta questioned whether the new green card system being proposed was in keeping with U.S. history and invoked Lazarus’s poem to make his point.

“What you’re proposing, or what the President is proposing here does not sound like it’s in keeping with American tradition when it comes to immigration.  The Statue of Liberty says, 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.'  It doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer," Acosta said.

“Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them you have to speak English?” he asked.

The new immigration bill in question, endorsed by Donald Trump, seeks to cut immigration in half. "The legislation would [also] award points based on education, ability to speak English, high-paying job offers, age, record of achievement and entrepreneurial initiative," as reported in the New York Times. As for the controversy over the poem:

Miller in his rebuttal questioned whether [the] poem was really representative of U.S. values on the basis it had been added to the statue after it was conceived as a symbol of American liberty. “The poem that you’re referring to, that was added later, is not actually a part of the original Statue of Liberty,” he said.

In a later back and forth, Miller referred to the “Statue of Liberty law of the land” asking the CNN journalist in what decade and which number of people entering the country each year he approved of U.S. immigration policy.

According to the National Park’s service, the Statue of Liberty’s official name is Liberty Enlightening the world. Lazarus's famous sonnet depicts the Statue as the "Mother of Exiles:" a symbol of immigration and opportunity - symbols associated with the Statue of Liberty today. One of Lazarus’s friends began a campaign promoting her work after her death in 1887 and in 1903 the words of the poem were inscribed on a plaque and placed on the inner wall of the pedestal of the statue.

Find the whole story at Newsweek.

Originally Published: August 3rd, 2017