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Immigration Law Blog

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Rephrasing the Statue of Liberty Poem to Fit the Immigration Agenda

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “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!”

Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus (November 2, 1883)


The famous poem written by Emma Lazarus which can be found mounted on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal has recently been at the center of a heated political debate. As of Monday (August 12, 2019), the Trump administration announced that a public charge rule would go into effect on October of 2019. The new public charge rule would potentially “limit legal immigration by denying green cards for those who qualify for food stamps, Medicaid, housing vouchers and various forms of public assistance.” When bringing up “The New Colossus” poem to Ken Cuccinelli, the acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services had some strong opinions on the matter. He defended the public charge rule by saying that the lines of the poem that read, “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!”, should be rephrased to say, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” The Statue of Liberty has always served as a symbol of freedom and immigration for our nation. The fact that the Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services believes that the poem should be rephrased to fit the Trump administration’s immigration agenda is appalling. Regardless of Ken Cuccinelli’s intentions with his “version” of the poem, it would take a lot of convincing of the people before they can make any changes. 

Mercedes Riggs