Taking a page from President Donald Trump's book, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly spent Tuesday perpetuating fake news about undocumented immigrants.
"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, audio from The Washington Post reveals.
"The difference between 690 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 made no mention of DACA's $495 application fee, which many people eligible for DACA consider a financial burden. But he later reiterated his "lazy" stance to reporters.
"I gotta say that some of them just should have probably gotten off the couch and signed up," he said.
Kelly also said that Trump "has become the champion, I believe, for 1.8 million people who are now considered kinda DACA."
As DiversityInc previously reported, "DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was a 2012 executive order by then President Barack Obama deferring legal action against children brought to the United States by undocumented immigrant parents. The program allows recipients to work or attend school on two-year renewable permits. As of September, the United States was home to approximately 689,000 DACA recipients, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services."
The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates that more than 1.3 million people are actually eligible to apply for DACA.
So Why Don't They Apply?
It is most likely not out of laziness or being stuck on the couch as suggested by Kelly. But he also half-heartedly suggested that some young people may be afraid to apply or not have enough information. If these suggestions were sincere, Kelly is partially correct. According to a survey of undocumented millennials, a delay in or absence of applying could very well be attributed to fear or finances:
• Fifty-nine percent were scared to reveal their status as undocumented to the government. Only 32 percent were informed that the government would not use this information for law enforcement purposes
• About 60 percent feared that their personal information would be used against them or their loved ones and would lead to their detention or deportation
• About 70 percent agreed with the following statement: "Living in a place with aggressive immigration enforcement policies would make me ANXIOUS about applying for a legalization program that requires me to share my personal information with government officials."
• Sixty-four percent agreed: "Living in a place with aggressive immigration enforcement policies would make me LESS LIKELY to contact the government for information or help in determining my eligibility for a legalization program."
• Applying for DACA costs $495 — an amount that 51 percent of respondents were responsible for paying for on their own. Close to 40 percent reported they had to save money in order to cover the application fee
• More than half anticipate financial hardship at paying the same amount to apply to renew their status. And 40 percent said they know someone who is eligible for DACA but has not yet applied because of the pricey fee
• Thirty-six percent said that the application fee resulted in a delay in applying — on average, this was a 3-month delay
Trump proposed legislation that would apply a pathway to citizenship for about 1.8 million undocumented immigrants, which would include those eligible for DACA as well as others. But Trump's plan, as "champion" for DACA recipients, does not come without strings, including funding for his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as well as a significant cut to family-based immigration, bringing down immigration rates by about a quarter.
It is also not clear how Trump's plan would address the fears that came along with former President Barack Obama's plan. A cost to apply for any path to legalization or protection program was not determined, and if young immigrants were afraid of providing Obama's government with personal information, it is unlikely they feel any more comfortable doing so under the Trump administration.
Trump in September announced DACA would be phased out and gave lawmakers a March 5 deadline to come up with a solution — but it has not yet been reached. And, according to Kelly, Trump is not likely to extend this deadline if no alternative is found.
This is exactly what many eligible Dreamers fear: "When applying for DACA, over three-fourths of respondents (79%) were concerned about what would happen if DACA ended."