“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 said. “The difference between [690,000] and 1.8 million were 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.”
Later that day, he seemed to double down on the earlier comments.
“Some of them just should’ve probably gotten off the couch and signed up,” he said.
The White House has been consistently inconsistent on DACA, which may not be surprising coming from a president who started his campaign for the White House by calling Mexicans “rapists,” but said, “And some, I assume, are good people,” practically in one breath. Throughout the budget process, which Democrats wanted to tie to a DACA solution, President Trump has contradicted himself on what he wants from an immigration deal, sometimes in the same meeting.
With a historic, eight-hour filibuster Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) led opposition to a broad two-year budget agreement that includes several Democratic priorities, but still does not address the legal status of dreamers. Democratic lawmakers and activists say the agreement suggests that the Republican-led Congress has no real interest in providing a solution for DACA recipients despite previous comments from the president.
Both sides have been criticized for leaving the fate of the program uncertain. And part of the indecision is probably because of mixed messages coming from the White House.
Trump has said he has “love" for the dreamers. He has also said he wanted to pass “a bill of love” that will benefit DACA recipients. But just last week, at a Republican retreat in West Virginia, Trump told GOP lawmakers: “It's not dreamers. Don’t fall into that trap. It’s much different than dreamers.”
And Kelly said Tuesday that Trump is not expected to extend a March 5 deadline — when legal protection and work permits begin to expire for dreamers — raising the stakes for lawmakers struggling to reach a solution.
So which is it? Does the White House “love” dreamers or is the label a “trap” by Democrats? Are they “lazy” or are they taking American jobs?
In his first State of the Union address, Trump attempted to reclaim the “dreamers” label, saying “Americans are dreamers, too,” between lines about keeping Americans safe and honoring a law enforcement official for his work policing criminals who are undocumented.
Trump and his aides have often defended their hard-line stance on immigration as a way to keep undocumented immigrants from taking jobs from American citizens. In addition to evidence that disputes that claim, other statistics indicate that dreamers appear to contribute more than they receive in benefits from the government, as well as paying a higher effective state/local tax rate than households in the top 1 percent.
Yet Kelly referred to some of these people as not having enough initiative to pursue a process that would put them further on the path to citizenship that dreamers desire.
According to recent polls, the majority of Americans — Republicans included — support finding a path to citizenship for dreamers. What will probably matter to voters — particularly those who are most sympathetic to dreamers — is how inconsistent the White House has been in how it refers to immigrants.
Where Trump lands on the issue will determine how Americans respond to him and his party this November, as voters look to Congress to find a solution to a problem that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say has gone too long without a permanent solution.