Washington (CNN)Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said acting Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli suggesting that only immigrants who can "stand on their own two feet" are welcome in the United States is "completely un-American."
"I've been a refugee twice, once from the Nazis and we were in England, and then we came to the United States when the communists took over in Czechoslovakia. And I think that it is one of the most un-American things I've ever heard," Albright told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night on "Anderson Cooper 360."
Albright, who is known for wearing brooches or decorative pins to convey her foreign policy messages, was wearing a Statue of Liberty pin on her jacket while speaking to Cooper.
"I think the Statue of Liberty is weeping," she said.
The former secretary of state said she will "always remember" seeing the Statue of Liberty when she sailed by it coming to the United States.
Albright said there have been various periods in American history when immigration policy has been "generous" and that the US has benefited from the diversity that has resulted from immigration. She said, "We are forgetting that great history of our country."
NPR's Rachel Martin asked Cuccinelli on "Morning Edition" in an interview published Tuesday: "Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus' words etched on the Statue of Liberty, 'Give me your tired, give me your poor,' are also a part of the American ethos?"
"They certainly are: 'Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,' " he replied. "That plaque was put on the Statue of Liberty at almost the same time as the first public charge was passed -- very interesting timing."