“There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the president sent over what amounts to be two and half times that number, to 1.8 million,” Kelly said during his visit.
“The difference between 690 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up [and] others would say were too lazy to get off their asses but they didn’t sign up.”
Immigration activists on and off of Capitol Hill pounced on the remarks, arguing that many Dreamers avoided the DACA program for fear of revealing their undocumented status to federal authorities.
“I don’t know the motive why all of those who could have, didn’t apply. Some were afraid –– very afraid,” Durbin said. “They’ve spent there whole lives saying, ‘Live in the shadows and don’t let the government know you’re here because you’re undocumented.’ And it was scary for them to step up and sign up. And some of their parents begged them not to.
“I think that was the dominant reason that such a large number did not sign up.”
Afterwards, Hoyer declined to comment on the exchange.
“I’m not going to get into specific discussions,” he said, “because I don’t think that’d be helpful.”
Kelly, for his part, left the meeting still doubting the motives of those immigrants who failed to enroll in DACA, but used tamer language than he did earlier in the day.
“I will take some points that, okay, some of them hadn’t heard about it –– hard to believe,” he said. “And then I suppose there’s another small percentage that didn’t trust President Obama, which is kind of hard to believe.”
“But that leaves a lot of people that I guess just didn’t get around to signing up over a six year period.”
Kelly characterized DACA recipients as “overwhelmingly good people.”
The Kelly controversy aside, the negotiators said Tuesday night’s talks yielded little progress.
“There are still wide gaps between our positions, with the Republicans and with the White House,” said Durbin. “But we’ve agreed to keep talking, so we’ll be back at it tomorrow.”
Hoyer said the disagreement still revolves around what enforcement provisions should accompany the DACA protections. He’s been pushing a package that would combine the DACA language with tougher border security. Trump and the Republicans have recently insisted on two additional provisions: one reducing family migration and another eliminating the diversity visa program.
“There was some progress in that we discussed specifics,” Hoyer said as he left the meeting. “No agreements.”
“We asked Cornyn that, and he either doesn’t know or at least he didn’t say,” Hoyer said.
Durbin said he trusts McConnell to oversee a fair process.
“Sen. McConnell promised that we would a have a level playing field … and I take him at his word,” he said. “I think it’ll be a shell bill of some nature that will give us an open opportunity to offer amendments.”
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