In case you slept through the big fight yesterday between White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller and CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta, the feathers really flew.
While most observers believe Miller delivered more blows, Acosta was more poetic — literally:
Invoking the famous poem inscribed in the base of Statue of Liberty which beckons the world’s “tired … poor … huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to America’s shores, Acosta asked Miller if the White House was “trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country.”
“It doesn’t say anything about speaking English,” pressed Acosta. “[A]ren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you are telling them they have to speak English?”
Miller pointed out that an ability to speak English is already a requirement for people seeking to become naturalized Americans. And so on.
What incited the fracas was Donald Trump’s endorsement of a bill sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) that goes far beyond the mere construction of a border wall — and even the hotly debated issue of illegal immigration. The bill, known as the RAISE Act (shot for Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy), would limit the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country. The pool of applicants for admission would be further reduced on the basis of merit: who could contribute the most to the country?
Needless to say, Democrats in Congress and in the media are less than enthusiastic about the bill (as evidenced by Acosta’s strangely incongruous flag waving yesterday). BuzzFeed editor Sarah Mimms tweeted out yesterday:
— Sarah Mimms (@SarahMMimms) August 2, 2017
Republicans who are realistic about the temperature inside the halls of Congress are themselves realistic about the bill’s chances of passing.
But for all the bellyaching, the RAISE Act is nothing new. Canada has had a merit-based immigration system in place for years and even provides prospective immigrants with a calculator for determining how many “points” they will need to make the grade.
In fact, the United States has considered limiting the number of immigrants before. And it wasn’t a Republican who ran the idea up the flagpole. The video that follows is a 1995 press conference with the late Democratic Rep. Barbara Jordan, who represented Texas, the state which then as now boasted the largest immigrant population.