MSNBC Contributor Says Trump Administration Wants to Keep U.S. a 'Majority White Country'

MSNBC contributor and BBC anchor Katty Kay argued on Wednesday that President Donald Trump's administration wants to keep the United States a "majority white country" after a top immigration official claimed the poem under the Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants was referring only to Europeans.

Kay, who was a guest host along with MSNBC's Billie Geist on Morning Joe on Wednesday, made the remarks while leading a panel discussion about the Trump administration's new immigration rule that would deny green cards to immigrants who are expected to access food stamps and other government subsidies. Pointing out that Hispanics make up only 10 percent of food stamp recipients in the U.S., while white Americans make up nearly 50 percent, Kay suggested the decision was not actually an economic one.

"I'm not quite sure this has anything to do with either welfare systems or economics," she said. "It's purely about trying to keep America the way that this White House would like it to be in the face of demographic change, and that is a majority white country and they know that that's changing."

Ken Cuccinelli
Acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli speaks during a briefing at the White House on August 12 in Washington, D.C. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty

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On Monday, the Trump administration announced the new immigration rule, which significantly favors legal immigrants with greater economic means. It would favor giving green cards to wealthier migrants, while disqualifying immigrants that the government deems likely to access government assistance programs. Many have criticized the policy change, pointing out that it appears to go against the iconic poem placed under the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, which has long been seen as a symbol of welcoming new immigrants to the country.

The sonnet, which was penned by Emma Lazarus in 1883, says: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me."

When asked directly about the new rule and how it appears to contradict the poem, Trump's acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, argued that it was only referring to "people coming from Europe" in a Tuesday evening interview with CNN. He added that the U.S. only wants people to immigrate "who can stand on their own two feet."

Former Democratic Representative and current Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke of Texas tweeted out a response to Cuccinelli's comments, writing: "This administration finally admitted what we've known all along: They think the Statue of Liberty only applies to white people."

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MSNBC Contributor Says Trump Administration Wants to Keep U.S. a 'Majority White Country' | U.S.