Wednesday, at the White House press briefing, President Donald Trump’s senior advisor for policy Stephen Miller got into a heated exchange with Jim Acosta, the Senior White House Correspondent for CNN.
Things got heated when Acosta claimed the English speaking preference in President Trump’s immigration proposal “sounds like you’re trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.”
Miller shot back, “Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you’ve ever said.”
Partial transcript as follows:
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 our immigration system is — would be actually 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 enlightening the world. It’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to was added later. It’s 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. The Statute 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. They’re not always going to be highly skilled. They’re not always going to be –.
MILLER: Jim, I appreciate your speech. So, let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about this. In 1970, when we let in 300,000 people a year, was that violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land? In the 1990s, when it was half a million a year was it violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land? … Tell me what years meet Jim Acosta’s definition of the Statue of Liberty home law of the land? So you’re saying a million a year is the Statue of Liberty number. 900,000 violates it. 800,000 violates it.
ACOSTA: I’m saying you’re sort of bringing a press 1 for English philosophy here to immigration, and that’s never what the United States has been about.
MILLER: Your statement’s also shockingly ahistorical in another respect too. Which is, if you look at the history of immigration, it’s actually ebbed and flowed. We’ve had periods of very large waves, followed by periods of less immigration and more immigration. And during the –.
ACOSTA: We’re in a period of immigration right now that the president wants to build walls…bring about a sweeping change to –.
MILLER: Surely, Jim, you don’t actually think that a wall affects green card policy. You couldn’t possibly believe that, do you? Actually — the notion that you actually think immigration is at a historic lull. The foreign-born population of the United States today –.
ACOSTA: With the new chief of staff on Monday talking about how border crossings were –.
MILLER: I want to be serious, Jim, do you really at CNN not know the difference between green card policy and illegal immigration? I mean, you really don’t know that?
ACOSTA: Sir, my father was a Cuban immigrant. He came to this country in 1962 right before the Cuban Missile Crisis and obtained a green card. Yes, people who immigrate to this country…
do obtain a green card at some point. They do it through a lot of hard work. And yes, they may learn English, as a second language, later on in life, but this whole notion of well, they have to learn English before they get to the United States, are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?
MILLER: Jim, I can honestly say, I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English. It’s actually — it reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree. … This is an amazing moment. This is an amazing moment, that you think only people from Great Britain or Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hardworking immigrants, who do speak English, from all over the world. Jim, have you honestly never met an immigrant from another country who speaks English outside of Great Britain and Australia? Is that your personal experience?
ACOSTA: Of course there are people who come –.
MILLER: But that’s not what you said, asked, and it shows your cosmopolitan bias. And I just want to say –.
ACOSTA: It sounds like you’re trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.
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. Jim, the reality is, is that the foreign-born population into our country has quadrupled since 1970. That’s a fact. It’s been mostly driven by green card policy. Now, this bill allows for immediate, nuclear family members to come into the country, much as they would today, and it adds an additional points-based system.
Miller apologized for his heated language, but said Acosta made some harsh insinutations before handing over the briefing to Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Follow Pam Key On Twitter @pamkeyNEN