According to White House chief of staff John Kelly, there are only two explanations for why people failed to sign up for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program: They were either “too afraid” or “too lazy.”
“There are 690,000 official DACA registrants. And the president sent over what amounts to be two-and-a-half times that number, to 1.8 million,” Kelly told reporters Tuesday, referring to Trump’s plan to create a pathway to citizenship for up to 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
The notable difference between the two, Kelly went on to say, was that the larger group includes "the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up.”
Audio of Kelly’s remarks were first obtained by the Washington Post, though he made a similar statement to Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade last week, lauding Trump for “not only dealing with the 690,000 official DACA recipients,” but also the "people who would have qualified, had they gotten off their, uh... Well, had they registered like they should have.” Kelly did not attribute that statement to "others" as he did on Tuesday.
Kelly, who previously led the Department of Homeland Security, also said Tuesday Trump’s plan to allow those 1.8 million people to seek citizenship was “the biggest shock” of the entire negotiation.
“That’s beyond what anyone could have imagined, whether you’re on the right or the left,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, Kelly’s comments haven’t gone over well with Democrats. New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez responded on Twitter, saying the White House “seems to be only concerned with degrading the very people they claim to want to save,” while Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego added, “Dreamers are some of the hardest workers I know.”
Under Trump’s orders, DACA is set to expire in early March, but Kelly assured reporters that undocumented immigrants who lack criminal records will not be “a priority for deportation.” Thomas Homan, the acting director of ICE, however, was less reassuring in an interview last week with NPR, saying that anyone encountered by an ICE agent would be a target for deportation, whether they committed a crime or not.
"We will not turn a blind eye to somebody that we find during our enforcement operations that's in the country illegally," he said.