White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Tuesday that many people eligible who were eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program may have chosen not to sign up because they are "too lazy to get off their ass."
Kelly made the remark on Capitol Hill days ahead of Congress' first government funding deadline since last month's partial government shutdown, which centered on extending the program.
President Trump said he will support making the program permanent only if lawmakers agree to border wall funding and restrictions on legal immigration.
Kelly, speaking to reporters, addressed why Trump would support a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million people, rather than the smaller subset currently protected by DACA.
"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, reported Erica Werner of the Washington Post. "The difference between 690 [thousand] 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."
Nearly 800,000 people living in the U.S. without legal permission gained work permits and protection from deportation under DACA, launched in 2012 by President Obama when Congress didn't pass the DREAM Act for people brought illegally to the U.S. as children.
Kelly told reporters he doubted Trump would unilaterally extend DACA beyond March 5, something Trump himself floated immediately after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in September that the program would end.
A federal judge in California issued a preliminary injunction last month preventing the Trump administration from ending DACA protections.