White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller found himself clashing with CNN correspondent Jim Acosta at Wednesday's White House press briefing.
"What the president is 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,'" Acosta said, quoting from the poem The New Colossus, which was inscribed on the statue after its erection.
"It doesn't say anything about speaking English or be a computer programmer," Acosta continued. "Aren't you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you are telling them you have to speak English? Can't people learn to speak English when they get here?"
Miller pointed out that English is already a requirement of naturalization.
"The notion that speaking English wouldn't be a part of an immigration system would actually be very ahistorical," he said.
Miller further rejected Acosta's reference to the Statue of Liberty, noting that the poem Acosta had cited was added later.
Acosta and Miller then began to speak loudly over each other, with Acosta accusing Miller of "national park revisionism."
"The Statue of Liberty has always been a beacon of hope to the world for people to send people to this country, and they're not always going to speak English, Stephen, they're not always going to be highly skilled," Acosta said.
But Miller pointed out that historical immigration levels, from the early to late 20th century, were in conflict with Acosta's criticism.
"If you look at the history of immigration, it's actually ebbed and flowed," he said.
"Do you really at CNN not know the difference between green card policy and illegal immigration?" he asked.