Top Trump immigration official: 'Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet'

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, on Tuesday tweaked the poem etched on the Statue of Liberty to defend the Trump administration's new policy that could force immigrants to decide between accepting public services or accepting a green card.

Cuccinelli cited part of Emma Lazarus's famous poem, changing the language to argue that the U.S. wants immigrants who can "stand on their own two feet" and be "self-sufficient."

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"Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge," Cuccinelli said on NPR's "Morning Edition" when asked if Lazarus's poem, "The New Colossus," was part of the American ethos. 

Lazurus's original poem reads, "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, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The Trump administration on Monday rolled out a new policy that expand's the government's ability to reject green cards, visas and entry into the U.S. for individuals deemed likely to use public services.

The "public charge" rule will connect a person's immigration status to their income and use of programs including Medicaid, food stamps and housing subsidies. 

"If they don’t have future prospects of being legal permanent residents without welfare," Cuccinelli said, "that will be counted against them. That is the point of the rule. It doesn’t seem too much to ask that we have Americans here who aren’t likely to go on welfare and become public charge."

Asked on Monday whether the words on the Statue of Liberty should come down because of the rule, Cuccinelli said that he "certainly" wasn't prepared "to take anything down."

"We have a long history of being one of the most welcoming nations in the world on a lot of bases — whether you be an asylee, whether you be coming here to join your family, or immigrating yourself," he said. 
 
Several states and advocacy groups have vowed to sue the administration over the new rule. 

“Under this rule, children will go hungry; families will go without medical care. I am committed to defending all of New York’s communities, which is why I intend to sue the Trump Administration over this egregious rule,” New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said in a statement. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not immediately respond to a request for further comment from The Hill.