'Chiudi La Bocca' Is Italian For 'Shut Your Mouth,' In Case Ken Cuccinelli Was Wondering.
Acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli has been spending this past week running frantically from microphone to microphone, demonstrating just how little he knows about the history of immigration in this country, shaming his own immigrant ancestors by expressing his sincerest desire to be even shittier to today's immigrants than people were to them, and promising a return to a time in American history that we all once considered pretty darned shameful. At the moment, he appears to be incapable of shutting up.
Following yesterday's poetry slam at NPR, Cuccinelli appeared on CNN's OutFront with Erin Burnett in order to dig the hole even deeper. This time, he attempted to explain that Emma Lazarus's poem referred exclusively to European immigrants and the only reason they were considered "wretched" and "poor" was because of how Europe had a class system and we did not. Yes, people who were not actually all that poor eagerly left everything and everyone they ever knew, in order to move to a country where they didn't know anyone and didn't speak the language, because they didn't want to live in a country with lords and ladies.
Of course, there were a whole lot of very racist people at the time, and most of those very racist people did want to limit immigration to just immigrants from Northern Europe. Heck! That was the same year they passed another famous immigration law, the one that banned Chinese immigrants. And yet, given that the Statue of Liberty itself was a big ol' "Congratulations on not enslaving black people anymore!" present from France, it does seem unlikely that this was the case here.
Cuccinelli also somehow tried to suggest, for the second time this week, that by sheer virtue of having been written a year before Lazarus's The New Colossus, the Immigration Act of 1882 could not possibly have been as repulsive as it obviously was.
Well of course that poem was referring to people coming from Europe [It wasn't, we actually had immigrants from all over at that time] where they had class-based societies [So did America! It was the Gilded Age!], where people were considered wretched if they weren't in the right class. [Nope! They were actually, for real, very poor.]
And it was introduced, it was written one year after the first federal public charge rule was written that says, and I'll quote it, any person unable to take care of himself without becoming a 'public charge' would be inadmissible. Or, in the terms that my agency deals with, they can't do what's called adjusting status, getting a green card, becoming legal residents.
You know what? Let's quote the whole thing, shall we? Because it seems as though he left some parts out.
"If on such examination there shall be found among such passengers any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of him or herself without becoming a public charge, they shall report the same in writing to the collector of such port, and such person shall not be permitted to land."
Oh my, yes. These two things definitely very similar expressions of the same American spirit! In fact, it's honestly just surprising that we didn't think to inscribe the text of that Act on the other side of the Statue of Liberty, so that all Americans can feel proud and nostalgic for a time when it was normal to refer to disabled people as "idiots." So heartwarming!
Cuccinelli also speaks glowingly of the fact that the 1882 law was even "broadened" in the years following, somehow failing to mention that said "broadening" involved the exclusion of specific ethnic groups.
I only have one thing left to say.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse