President Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff suggested to reporters Tuesday that people who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) but don’t sign up for it refrain in part out of laziness.
When describing the key components of the White House’s immigration framework, Gen. John Kelly noted that the plan includes a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million people, including DACA recipients as well as people eligible for DACA but who never signed up.
“The difference between [these numbers] were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up; others would say are too lazy to get off their asses but they didn’t sign up,” Kelly told reporters, according to audio posted by The Washington Post.
Former President Barack Obama implemented DACA by executive order in 2012. The program allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors with their parents to apply for a work permit, shielding them from deportation. Approximately 800,000 people have benefitted from the program, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The Trump administration announced in September that it was phasing out DACA, giving Congress a six-month window to find a solution (the deadline is March 5.) Congress shut down the government last month after lawmakers were unable to agree on a fix. However, they eventually approved a short-term bill funding the government through Feb. 8 after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to work on an immigration deal. But that deadline is fast approaching, and such a deal does not seem imminent.
Kelly also told reporters Tuesday he does not expect Trump to extend the March 5 deadline if Congress has not reached an agreement.
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Write to Alana Abramson at Alana.Abramson@time.com