After announcing the Trump administration’s new “public charge” rule set to begin next October, during an interview with NPR’s Rachel Martin, Cuccinelli reworded Emma Lazarus’ The New Colossus—the 136-year-old sonnet at the base of the Statue of Liberty—by altering its words and instead saying “give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge.”
To make matters worse, during an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett on Tuesday night, Cuccinelli said the poem on the Statue of Liberty only referred to “people coming from Europe where they had class based societies where people were considered wretched if they weren’t in the right class.”
The Trump administration’s new regulation expands on the definition of a “public charge” to include someone who is “more likely than not” to receive public benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period. The list of public benefits was also broadened to include Medicaid, housing assistance and food assistance. The rule will target immigrants who are living in the U.S. on temporary visas applying for a green card. Officials say the program would not apply to people who already have green cards, certain members of the military, refugees and asylum-seekers, and pregnant women and children.
Cuccinelli’s remarks and the new regulation sparked outrage from Democrats and immigration advocates, including presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke who tweeted “this administration finally admitted what we’ve known all along: They think the Statue of Liberty only applies to white people.” Immigration advocates warn that many immigrants, including those that are not subject to the regulation, may drop out of programs for fear of retribution. Some experts say the new rule could cut legal immigration by half.