CNN's Jim Acosta challenges Trump adviser Stephen Miller over new legislation to curtail legal immigration

Acosta: It “sounds like you're trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country"

From the August 2 White House press briefing:

Video file

STEPHEN MILLER: I will take one actual last question on the subject at hand.

JIM ACOSTA: What you're proposing, or what the president's proposing here does not sound like it's in keeping with American tradition when it comes to immigration. The Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” It doesn't say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer. Aren't you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you're telling them, “You have to speak English.” Can't people learn how to speak English when they get here?

MILLER: Well, first of all, right now, it's a requirement that to be naturalized you have to speak English. So the notion that speaking English wouldn't be a part of immigration systems would be very ahistorical. Secondly, I don't want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty and lighting the world -- is a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to was added later [and] is not actually a part of the original Statue of Liberty. But more fundamentally, the history --


ACOSTA: You're saying that that does not represent what the country has always thought of as immigration coming into this country? Stephen, I’m sorry, that sounds like some national park revisionism.


MILLER: No, what I'm asking you is –


ACOSTA: The Statue of Liberty has always been a beacon of hope to the world for people to send their people to this country. And they're not always going to speak English, Stephen. They're not always going to be highly skilled. They’re not always going to be –


MILLER: Jim, I appreciate your speech.


ACOSTA: It just sounds like you're trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country through this policy.

MILLER: Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you've ever said, and for you, that's still a really -- the notion that you think that this is a racist bill is so wrong and so insulting.

ACOSTA: I didn't say it was a racist bill.

Later on the August 2 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, Acosta called Trump's proposal for an English language preference for new immigrants “a dog whistle,” and the antithisis of what America has always stood for which is to “bring in people from all walks of life”:

JIM ACOSTA: There are people we bring into this country from all walks of life, from all income levels, from all language speaking abilities, because we're the United States of America.

You know, I mentioned my father, my father came here three weeks before the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. He was 11 years old, didn't speak any English. He tells me this story about how a teacher at his school in Vienna, Virginia sat down with him and patiently taught him English as he was growing up here in northern Virginia.

You know, this -- I think this goes back to a problem that this White House has. Remember when the president launched his campaign for president, he referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, and that bias against Latino immigrants has just sort of infected the president, some of his top officials who deal with this issue of immigration, throughout that entire time period. And I think you saw some of that spill out in the briefing room today.


When you hear the president make some of the comments that he makes about immigrants during the course of the campaign, talking about deportation forces, and when you see Stephen Miller, a policy adviser to the president, talking about an English language preference for people coming into this country, it is a wink.

It is a dog whistle to certain parts of this country, that they are going to be looking at the racial and ethnic flow of immigrants coming into this country. I just think that's undeniable, and I -- so, I just wanted to remind him, this is what the Statue of Liberty says. This is what our tradition has always been in this country, we bring in people from all walks of life. It's what makes America great. It was already great because of immigrants in this country.


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