President Trump's right-hand man used an ugly racial stereotype while discussing immigration policy on Tuesday, according to audio obtained by the Washington Post. After meeting with lawmakers, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said some undocumented immigrants were "too lazy" to sign up for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama-era program that protected shielded certain immigrants from deportation.
"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 on Capitol Hill. "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."
Kelly was describing an immigration deal that Trump recently proposed, in which the 1.8 million undocumented immigrants eligible for DACA would be given a pathway to citizenship in exchange for $25 billion in funding for a border wall on the U.S.—Mexico border. Although the White House said that proposal was "a dramatic concession" on its part, it also contained provisions that many Democrats found unacceptable, such as cuts to legal immigration and the elimination of the diversity visa lottery.
A Vox report from September suggested that some DACA-eligible immigrants were afraid to sign up for the program because doing so would reveal their identities and immigration status to the federal government.
President Trump opposes DACA, and the Department of Homeland Security stopped accepting new DACA applications in September. The president has said that he'll end the program entirely by March 5th, which in theory gives Congress less than a month to pass legislation to either enshrine the program into law or, alternatively, provide protections to existing DACA recipients.
For instance, the administration gave DACA recipients whose protections expired before March 5th a one-month window in which to apply for a renewal. If their applications are accepted, they'll enjoy another two years' worth of DACA protections.
Even more significantly, a federal judge ruled in January that the Trump administration must allow all current DACA recipients — even those whose protections aren't expiring before March 5th — to reapply for the program. Although immigrants who never enrolled in DACA to begin with may not do so now, that ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals nevertheless meant that all 690,000 DACA recipients are now eligible for a two-year extension of their protections.
The Trump administration appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, and the high court decided to hear the case. Nevertheless, the 9th Circuit's ruling rendered that March 5th deadline effectively meaningless, as the Supreme Court is extremely unlikely to issue a ruling on the case before then.
More recently, the fate of DACA has become intertwined with the ongoing congressional fight over government funding. When Democrats insisted in January that any funding bill contain some form of protections for the 690,000 DACA recipients, Republicans refused, resulting in a three-day shutdown. Democrats eventually agreed to a short-term funding bill that didn't contain a DACA fix — but that round of funding runs out on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Trump expressed frustration with Congress's inability to strike a deal on immigration, and said that he'd "love to see a shutdown if we don't get this stuff taken care of."
"Let's have a shutdown," the president remarked. "We’ll do a shutdown, and it's worth it for our country."