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The acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services in a new interview revised the iconic poem on the Statue of Liberty's pedestal to suggest that only immigrants who can "stand on their own two feet" are welcome in the United States.

Ken Cuccinelli tweaked the famous poem from Emma Lazarus -- whose words, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" are long associated with immigration to the US -- as part of a case for strict new measures pushed Monday by the Trump administration that could dramatically change the legal immigration system.

"Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus's words etched on the Statue of Liberty, 'Give me your tired, give me your poor,' are also a part of the American ethos?" NPR's Rachel Martin asked Cuccinelli on "Morning Edition" in an interview published Tuesday.

"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."

On Monday, the Trump administration announced a regulation that makes it easier to reject green card and visa applications. The new rule means many green card and visa applicants could be turned down if they have low incomes or little education, and have used benefits such as most forms of Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers, because they'd be deemed more likely to need government assistance in the future.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, Geneva Sands and Tami Luhby contributed to this report.

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