Trump immigration official Ken Cuccinelli tweaks the Statue of Liberty poem

President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Aug. 9 2019 as he prepares to leave Washington for his Bedminster golf club

A top Trump immigration official offered an edit to the iconic poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty in the wake of the Administration's newly announced plan making it tougher for some immigrants to obtain green cards.

The head of Citizenship and Immigration Services tweaked the passage: "Give me your exhausted, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free".

The change broadens the scope of the "public charge" rule that in 1996 had been limited to only cash-assistance programs to now include non-cash government assistance programs.

The new rules, according to the report, could deny green cards to immigrants who use food stamps, housing vouchers, Medicaid and other forms of public assistance.

Trump's "public charge" rule is set to go into effect in October. "A poor person can be prepared to be self-sufficient", he said.

What did the official say?

NPR's Rachel Martin asked Cuccinelli on "Morning Edition" in an interview published Tuesday.

"They certainly are", Mr Cuccinelli responded.

As a result of the policy, "the benefit to taxpayers is a long-term benefit of seeking to ensure that our immigration system is bringing people to join us as American citizens, as legal permanent residents first, who can stand on their own two feet, who will not be reliant on the welfare system", he said.

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He insisted that the poem plaque was placed on the Statue of Liberty at nearly the same time as the first public charge law.

Lazarus' poem reads: "Give me your exhausted, 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!'" It was mounted in the lower level of Lady Liberty's pedestal in 1903.

Who will be affected by the new rule?

US President Donald Trump has said that he wants to introduce a merit-based immigration system that would favour those who are well-educated or have special skills.

But applicants for visa extensions, green cards or United States citizenship will be subject to the change.

The people coming in, he said, should "not be a burden on the taxpayers or the government".

An estimated 22 million legal residents in the U.S. are without citizenship, and many of these are likely to be affected. In recent years, it's taken on new meaning as a rallying cry against President Trump's immigration policies. This latest move is part of his government's efforts to curb legal immigration.

- House Homeland Security Committee (@HomelandDems) August 13, 2019 This is absurd, historically inaccurate, ableist, and shockingly devoid of humanity and compassion.

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