top of page

Anti-Immigrant Ken Cuccinelli Rewrites Statue of Liberty's Poem

Demagogue Donald’s Immigration Point Man Ken Cuccinelli— Legal Immigrants, Stay Away! August 25, 2019

Let’s not kid ourselves. Demagogue Donald and Company are not just against illegal immigrants. They also want to radically cut legal immigration to this country and have repeatedly made no bones about it. Never mind that from our nation’s beginnings, this country has usually stood for an open immigration policy that is the envy of much of the world. Never mind that the coming of millions of peoples to our shores having many racial, ethnic, religious, and geographical backgrounds continues to enrich us generation after generation. Never mind that the symbol of this immigration, the Statue of Liberty, standing in the NY Harbor area, has on it a poem by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), “The New Colossus.” Remember the most famous lines in this work that you probably heard in school many times?

“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!”

However, according to Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of the US Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) the “plain meaning” of those words, which right-wing conservatives claim are the “only thing” that counts in Supreme Court rulings, has to be amended/tweaked or read with a different intent. “Poet” (NOT) Cuccinelli, in an NPR, 8/13/2019 National Public Radio interview, when asked about the obvious meaning of Lazarus’ words in the poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty, stated that Lazarus really meant, ”Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and will not become a public charge (Cole, D & Kelly, C., 8/13/19,” Huh? To justify this beyond twisted interpretation of Lazarus’ welcoming words to all immigrants, Cuccinelli added, “The plaque with Lazarus’ poem was put on the Statue of Liberty at almost the same time as the first public charge was passed—very interesting thing ( Cole & Kelly).” Give me a break! IMHO, poet Lazarus had no thought whatsoever about defending public charge laws for immigrants when she wrote that poem and Cuccinelli can’t find any evidence of that. On that very same night, 8/13/2019, Cuccinelli combatively told CNN’s Erin Burnett that Lazarus’ poem was referring back to the “huddled masses” who only “came from Europe where they had class-based societies (, Cole & Kelly, 8/13/19,, 8/13/19, Baragona, J., 8/13/19).” This racist/ethnocentric based interpretation by Cuccinelli again is contradicted by Lazarus’ poem on Lady Liberty’s pedestal. In that poem, Lazarus first states,”From her beacon-hand Glows ‘world-wide’ welcome (See, Ruiz-Grossman, S., 8/13/19).” “World-wide” welcome, Cuccinelli, means the whole world, not just Europe. And most of the other societies throughout the world then and now also have “huddled masses” hurt by rigid class-based societies.

Cuccinelli was doing all these interviews to “defend” the Trump administration’s 8/12/2019 announcement that on 10/15/2019 the public charge requirements for immigration would be expanded for legal immigrants. Under the new rules, green card and visa applicants could be turned down if they have low incomes, little education, and have used benefits such as most forms of Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers, because they’d be deemed more likely to need government assistance in the future (, Cole & Kelly, 8/13/19). In a CNN op-ed published on 8/13/2019, Cuccinelli defended these public charge changes, stating that “self-sufficiency has been a core tenet of the American dream.” No, Cuccinelli, the core tenet of the American dream is that many people came here with a few dollars in their pockets and then went on to make millions. I doubt that Cuccinelli’s Italian immigrant ancestors on his father’s side and Irish ones on his mother’s came here as affluent, educated, and self-sufficient (, 6/03/09,, 6/03/09). We should not be too surprised by Cuccinelli’s hard line anti-immigrant views. He is one big fan of ultra-racist IA GOP Cong. Steve King who has been stripped of his committee posts and condemned by Congress for his white supremacist views. This is the same Cong. Steve King who recently made the sick comment that there would not be any population left on earth were it not for “rape and incest (Foran,, 8/14/15).”

In 2012, Cuccinelli also referred to immigrants as “rats (, Entralgo, 4/11/19 & Israel, J., 8/13/19,, 7/26/13, Wing).” In fact, during his morning 8/13/2019 NPR interview, Cuccinelli suggested that even children born abroad to U.S. citizens like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Trump’s Sec. of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, and GOP Congressmen Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and Mark Meadows (R-NC), should “not be granted the right to become an American (, Israel).” In Cuccinelli’s words, “No one has a right to become an American who isn’t born here as an American. It is a privilege to become an American, not a right for anyone who is not already an American citizen (thinkprogress, Israel, 8/13/19).” In 2010, Cuccinelli dabbled in “birtherism,” questioning whether Pres. Obama had been born in the U.S. He later backed away from these statements (, 5/15/10). Here’s an in-depth profile of Mr. “1,000%” American” (LOL, really, COL/Cry Out Loud) Ken Cuccinelli.

Kenneth Thomas Cuccinelli (51) has had a long career in far-right politics and is one true ideological believer. Edison, NJ native Cuccinelli received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of VA and a law degree from George Mason University as well as a Masters in International Commerce and Policy from George Mason ( He practiced law in Fairfax, VA. He successfully ran for the State Senate in the 37th District in an August 2002 special election. He was re-elected to his first full term in 2003. In 2007, he won re-election by a .3 margin, with a difference of just 92 votes out of 37,000 cast (, 11/06/07). In 2009, he won the office of VA Attorney General getting 58% of the vote in the election where GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell handily won (, 2010).

Cuccinelli served as VA Atty. General from 2010-2014. He was Trump/MAGA “before it was cool.” In 2010, Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit in a Federal Ct. in VA challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare. He was the first Attorney General to file a lawsuit against Obamacare. When he later unsuccessfully ran for Governor and lost to Dem. Terry McAuliffe in 2013, he opposed Medicaid expansion. Cuccinelli lost his Obamacare lawsuit and the Supreme Court upheld that legislation in 2012 (See

As Attorney General, Cuccinelli was already an immigration hard-liner. He joined eight other states in filing an amicus brief opposing the Obama administration’s challenge to a draconian AZ immigration law. The Supreme Ct. threw out most of AZ’s law. In 2010, Cuccinelli issued a legal opinion authorizing VA law officials to investigate the immigration status of anyone that they had stopped. Previously, this was done only for those arrested. He sought to prohibit undocumented immigrants from attending universities. He was for repealing birthright citizenship, allowing children of immigrant parents born in the U.S. to be citizens as required by the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. He also wanted to force employees to speak English in the workplace (See, 7/15/10,, 8/03/10).

Cuccinelli rejected the scientific consensus on climate change( In 2010, Cuccinelli filed a request that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reopen its proceedings regarding its findings that greenhouse gases endanger public health and sought judicial review of that finding in federal court. He lost. In 2010, he also stated he would challenge the 3/2010 standards in the Clean Air Act for motor vehicle fuel efficiency (, Cuccinelli investigated climate scientists who challenged his climate stance and said they were engaging in fraud. In 4/2010, he served a civil investigation demand on the University of VA for a broad search of documents relating to climate researcher Michael Mann. Cuccinelli argued that Mann’s work was fraudulent under the VA Fraud Against Taxpayers Act. Cuccinelli was accused by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) of “echoing McCarthyism” with this action. Two-hundred fifty-five (255) members of the National Academy of Sciences, the ACLU, and the AAUP signed a letter published in “Science” urging the University of VA to resist producing this data. The UVA resisted Cuccinelli and after repeated litigation, won in the courts (, Helderman, 5/04/10 & 5/09/10, 8/31/10, Sluss, 8/30/10,, Goldenberg,, 3/03/12).

Cuccinelli has always been a strong opponent of abortion. In the state legislature, he sponsored a number of bills, including altering the licensing and regulation of abortion clinics, and requiring that a doctor save the fetal tissue when performing an abortion on a woman under age 15 for forensic use. He also supported “personhood” bills to give human embryos legal rights (, Bratko, 8/27/13,, 1/10/05,, 1/10/06). He supports abstinence-only sex programs with state funding (, 11/13/07). Cuccinelli defended the anti-sodomy laws on VA’s books in court. He lost again in VA federal court which followed the Supreme Ct’s ruling throwing out anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas. Cuccinelli opposes same-sex marriage (, Lithwick, abcnews ).

After losing the 11/2013 VA gubernatorial election to Dem. Terry McAuliffe by a 2.5% margin, (VA State Bd. of Elections), Cuccinelli worked for Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign leading his efforts to win delegates. In 5/2016, Cuccinelli was named general counsel to the Freedom Works Foundation, a key right- wing advocacy group affiliated with the Tea Party. As general counsel of this group, Cuccinelli helps state attorneys general who oppose federal regulations (, Vozzella, 5/31/16).

In 6/2019, Cuccinelli was appointed to serve as the Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by Trump. In this post, he is in charge of systems for legal immigration and naturalization. Cuccinelli stated that his post was not a “benefit agency. We are a vetting agency (, Radnofsky,7/6/19).” Translation: I will be a hardliner against legal immigration.

Cuccinelli was appointed Acting Director of USCIS when leading Senators indicated he had little chance of Senate confirmation as permanent director (Burgess & Johnson, “Politico,” 6/04/19). According to the Chairs of the House Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Government Oversight Committees, Cuccinelli may have also been improperly appointed as Acting Director (See 6/18/19 Letter by Congressmen Nadler, Cummings, & Thompson). In any event, after Cuccinelli’s latest re-writing of Emma Lazarus’ Statue of Liberty poem, we must push for his ouster. We must also protest massively against the Trump/Cuccinelli new public charge rules that will severely hinder legal immigration. Ultimately, we must throw Demagogue Donald and his whole xenophobic crew out in 11/2020 to “Truly make America Great Again.” In Emma Lazarus’ words, America has to reclaim its image as “Mother of Exiles.” We must return to giving a “world-wide” welcome to many still “huddled masses yearning to be free.”

bottom of page