A top aide to President Trump got into a heated exchange with a CNN reporter Wednesday over a Republican proposal to limit legal immigration, with the journalist accusing the White House of promoting a racist immigration policy because it requires migrants to speak English.
The brouhaha got started when CNN reporter Jim Acosta asked presidential aide Stephen Miller whether the immigration proposal violated the principles engraved on the Statue of Liberty to “give me your tired, your poor” huddled masses seeking freedom.
When Mr. Miller said the poem was “added later” to the statue, Mr. Acosta retorted, “that sounds like some sort of National Park revisionism.”
Emma Lazarus’s poem “the New Colossus” was written in 1883 as part of an attempt to raise funds to build the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, but the iconic excerpt from the poem weren’t added to the statue until 1903.
Mr. Acosta asked if the requirement for immigrants to speak English was designed to “engineer racial and ethnic” immigration policy so that only people from Great Britain and Australia are allowed into the U.S., prompting Mr. Miller to let loose.
“I am shocked at your statement that you think only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English,” Mr. Miller told the reporter. “It reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree. 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 who do speak English from all over the world.”
Mr. Miller called the reporter’s comments “outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish.”
When Mr. Acosta brought up the president’s proposed border wall with Mexico, Mr. Miller again hit back.
“Do you really at CNN not know the difference between green-card policy and illegal immigration?” he asked the reporter.
“My father was a Cuban immigrant. He came to this country in 1962,” Mr. Acosta said, adding that his father obtained a green card and worked hard.
Mr. Acosta later complained to the president’s aide, “You called me ignorant on national television.”
Mr. Miller said, “I apologize, Jim, if things got heated.”
Mr. Miller noted that migration levels have fluctuated historically, and he challenged the journalist to tell him “what years meet Jim Acosta’s definition” of adequate immigration numbers.