Senior Trump Aide Takes CNN's Acosta To The Woodshed Over New Immigration Policy

Posted: Aug 02, 2017 4:00 PM

President Donald Trump has announced a new immigration policy that will seek to shift attention away from low-skilled labor. It’s called the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, RAISE, which Katie noted would amount to the biggest overhaul in immigration policy since the 1960s.

“Struggling American families deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first. The RAISE Act ends chain migration and replaces our low-skilled system with a new points-based system,” said President Trump in the Roosevelt Room this morning.

Well, that didn’t sit well with CNN’s Jim Acosta, who decided to spar with Stephen Miller, senior aide to President Trump, over aspects of the policy, specifically the emphasis on high-skills and knowing English. Acosta said the new policy direction violates what the Statue of Liberty has stood for, which devolved into an intense war of words.

Miller accused Acosta of having a cosmopolitan bias, while asking when the Statute of Liberty law of the land was violated. When we allowed 300,000 people to enter the country in 1970? When we allowed 500,000 in during the 1990s?

“Tell me what years meet Jim Acosta’s definition of the Statute of Liberty poem law of the land?” barked Miller.

Acosta accused the Trump White House of having a “press 1 for English” direction that is not in keeping with past immigration policy.

“That is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you’ve ever said. The notion that you think this is a racist bill is so wrong and so insulting,” said Miller. “This is an amazing moment that you think only people from Great Britain and Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hard-working immigrants who do speak English from all over the world,” he added.

Addendum:  Anna Giaritelli of The Washington Examiner had more details on the key provisions of the legislation. She also reported that Miller predicted “unstoppable momentum” for this immigration overhaul.

"This legislation will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century but the bonds of trust between America and its citizens. This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and America first," Trump said during a press conference at the White House Wednesday. "This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy."


The bill is the most significant type of green card reform since the GOP-majority Congress unsuccessfully tried to cut immigration numbers with a provision in 1996.

Trump's commitment to immigration reform while on the campaign trail focused on illegal immigration as opposed to protocols for those who use visas to enter the country. During his first address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, Trump decried the "current, outdated system" that awards visas based on economic or humanitarian needs, as well as family connections.

"Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, we will have so many more benefits," Trump said in February. "It will save countless dollars, raise workers' wages, and help struggling families — including immigrant families — enter the middle class."


The revised RAISE Act steals a page from Canada and Australia, whose immigration laws prioritize high-skilled workers for employment-based green cards. The number of skills-based visas would increase under the proposal though businesses could rely more on outsourcing jobs to cheaper employees in other countries.


The diversity visa lottery would be eliminated while the number of green cards or documents for permanent residents would increase.

Family immigration categories would be narrowed to no longer include extended family members and adult children of U.S. citizens. However, citizens are able to apply for renewable, temporary visas for elderly parents.

If passed, the 1 million legal immigrants who enter the U.S. annually would drop to somewhere between 500,000 and 600,000 people by 2027, putting it in line with historic norms.

Refugee admissions would also be capped at 50,000 per year, the 13-year average despite a recent increase of Syrian refugees.

UPDATE: Here's the transcript:

JIM ACOSTA, CNN: What you’re proposing, or 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 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?   

MR. 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 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 and lighting the world.  It’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world.  The poem that you’re referring to, that was added later, 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 --

MR. MILLER:  I'm saying that the notion --

ACOSTA:   -- has always thought of as immigration coming into this country? 

MR. MILLER:  I'm saying the notion -- 

ACOSTA:  Stephen, I'm sorry, but that sounds like some --

MR. MILLER:  Jim, let me ask you a question.

ACOSTA: That sounds like some National Park revisionism.  (Laughter.) 

MR. 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 --

MR. MILLER:  Jim -- Jim, do you believe --

ACOSTA:   -- 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 somebody who can go to work at Silicon Valley right away.

MR. MILLER:  Jim, I appreciate your speech.  So let’s talk about this.

ACOSTA: It was a modest and incremental speech.

MR. MILLER:  Jim, 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?

ACOSTA: Was it violating the Statue of Liberty and the --

MR. MILLER:  No, tell me what years -- tell me what years -- 

ACOSTA:  (Inaudible) call for a deportation force?

MR. MILLER:  Tell me what years meet Jim Acosta’s definition of the Statue of Liberty poem 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: You’re sort of bringing a "press one for English" philosophy here to immigration, and that’s never been what the United States has been about, Stephen.  I mean, that's just the case --

Mr. MILLER:  But your statement is also shockingly ahistorical in another respect, too -- which is, if you look at the history of immigration, it's actually ebbed and flowed.  You’ve had periods of very large waves, followed by periods of less immigration and more immigration.  And during the -- 

ACOSTA: We’re in a low period of immigration right now.  The President wants to build a wall and you want to bring about a sweeping change to the immigration system.

MR. MILLER:  Surely, Jim, you don’t actually think that a wall affects Green Card policy.  You couldn’t possibly believe that, or do you?  Actually, the notion that you actually think immigration is at a historic lull -- the foreign-born population in the United States today --

ACOSTA: The President was just with the new Chief of Staff on Monday talking about how border crossings were way down.

MR. MILLER:  I want to be serious, Jim.  Do you really at CNN not know the difference between Green Card policy and illegal immigration?  You really don’t know the --

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 can eventually -- people who immigrate to this country not through Ellis Island, as your family may have, but in other ways, 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?

MR. MILLER:  Jim, it’s actually -- I have to 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 that in your mind --

ACOSTA: Sir, it's not a cosmopolitan --

MR. MILLER:  No, this is an amazing moment.  This 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.

ACOSTA: My father came to this country not speaking any English.

MR. MILLER:  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 into this country from other parts of the world. 

MR. MILLER:  But that’s not what you said, and it shows your cosmopolitan bias.  And I just want to say -- 

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

MR. 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.

MR. MILLER:  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.  The people who have been hurt the most --

ACOSTA: You’re saying that people have to be English speaking when they're naturalized.  What is this English-speaking component that you've inserted into this?  I don’t understand.

MR. MILLER:  The people who have been hurt the most by the policy you’re advocating are --

ACOSTA: What policy am I advocating?

MR. MILLER:Apparently, just unfettered, uncontrolled migration.  The people who have been hurt the most by the policy --

ACOSTA: (Inaudible) is for open borders.  That's the same tired thing that --

MR. MILLER:  The people who have been hurt the most by the policy you’re advocating are immigrant workers and minority workers and African American workers and Hispanic workers.