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Ken Cuccinelli: Statue of Liberty Poem Welcoming Immigrants Refers to ‘People Coming from Europe’

Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli defended his twisting of a poem etched into the Statue of Liberty by saying that the pro-immigrant writing was actually only referencing “people coming from Europe” to live in America.

Cuccinelli, who, on Tuesday morning, suggested the poem should actually state, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,” made the comments during a confrontational interview with CNN host Erin Burnett.

After Burnett questioned Cuccinelli about his revisions to the poem, which actually states, “Give me your tired, your poor,. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the official responded: “That poem was referring back to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies — where people were considered wretched if they weren’t in the right class.”

“It was introduced one year after the first federal public charge rule was written that says — I’ll quote it, ‘Any person unable to take care of himself without becoming a public charge,’ unquote, would be inadmissible.” he added. “In the terms that my agency deals with, they can’t do what’s called adjusting status, getting a green card, becoming legal permanent residence.”

“This is a central part of our heritage as Americans,” Cuccinelli concluded.

Earlier in the interview, Cuccinelli insisted he “wasn’t quoting” the poem and was only “answering a question.” Cuccinelli offered his own rendition of the pro-immigrant verse after an NPR interviewer brought it up.

“Nancy Pelosi referred to America’s proud heritage. Self-sufficiency is a central part of America’s proud heritage. And we proudly stand behind that tradition,” the Citizenship and Immigration Services director told Burnett.

Watch above, via CNN.

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Caleb Ecarma is a reporter at Mediaite. Email him here: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter here: @calebecarma