Ken Cuccinelli. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, tweaked the famous poem inside the Statue of Liberty during an interview on NPR's "Morning Edition" to defend the Trump administration's rule that would penalize immigrants who use or are likely to use public benefit programs such as food stamps, housing assistance or Medicaid.

"Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."

Emma Lazarus' original words from "The New Colossus":

"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 big picture: Cuccinelli said it "doesn't seem like too much to ask" for immigrants to be self-sufficient when coming to the U.S. after NPR's Rachel Martin asked him if the rule changes the definition of the American dream.

  • "It does not change what makes America exceptional. We invite people to come here and join us as a privilege," he said.

Go deeper: Trump administration to penalize immigrants likely to use public benefits

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