White House senior adviser Stephen Miller lashed out Wednesday at CNN star Jim Acosta for his “cosmopolitan bias” during a heated debate in the briefing room over President Trump’s call to overhaul legal immigration.
Tensions flared when Acosta took issue with the Trump-backed proposal favoring immigrants who speak English.
“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,” Acosta told Miller, referring to legislation the president endorsed earlier Wednesday.
The CNN correspondent, who has not shied from criticizing the administration, cited a quotation on the Statue of the Liberty.
Said Acosta: “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 … 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 they have to speak English? Can't people learn how to speak English when they get here?”
Shooting back, Miller said: “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 part of our immigration system would be very ahistorical.”
The CNN reporter continued to criticize the notion of favoring immigrants who already know English.
“This whole notion … that 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?” he said.
That's when Miller turned up the heat on Acosta.
“I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English,” Miller said. “It reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree.”
He added, “This is an amazing moment, 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.”
Continuing to press the point, Miller said: “Jim, Have you honestly never met an immigrant from another country who speaks English from outside of Great Britain and Australia? Is that your personal experience?”
Miller, a policy adviser and speechwriter who has been actively involved in crafting the administration’s immigration policies, accused Acosta of advocating “unfettered, uncontrolled migration.”
As he left the podium, Miller said: “I apologize, Jim, if things got heated, but you did make some pretty rough insinuations.”
Earlier Wednesday, Trump joined two Republican senators to champion legislation overhauling legal immigration in America, calling for a merit-based system that would significantly cut green cards over the next decade. The bill also said it favors immigrants who are financially self-sufficient and have high-paying job offers.