“Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,” Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Tuesday, twisting Emma Lazarus’ famous words on a bronze plaque at the Statue of Liberty.
Cuccinelli was speaking to NPR’s Morning Edition about a new regulation he announced Monday that targets legal immigration. The rule denies green cards and visas to immigrants if they use — or are deemed likely to need — federal, state and local government benefits including food stamps, housing vouchers and Medicaid. The change stands to impact hundreds of thousands of immigrants who come to the United States legally every year.
On Tuesday, Cuccinelli described the public charge as a “burden on the government.” He told NPR the new regulation was a prospective rule, “part of President Trump keeping his promises.”
Critics have denounced the rule as a sweeping attempt to stem immigration and favor wealthy migrants. The regulation is expected to be challenged by immigration groups in court.
Leon Fresco, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration, said the case could wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rumors that the Trump administration was considering the regulation already led to a chilling effect on immigrants looking to put down roots through legal and permanent residency. Public health and social service providers report that immigrants are worried about seeking medical and housing aid for themselves and their children, who may be U.S. citizens.
Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general, has long held a hard-line stance against immigration and asylum policies. President Trump tapped him to be the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in June, bringing him to the helm of an agency he had never worked in.