WASHINGTON — Some immigrants may have been “too afraid” or “too lazy” to sign up for the Obama-era program that offers protection from deportation, White House chief of staff John Kelly said Tuesday as he defended President Donald Trump’s proposal on the divisive issue.
Kelly discounted the possibility that Trump would announce a temporary extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program beyond March 5, when its protections could expire. He said the administration would not ask Congress to set a later date to give bargainers more time to reach a bipartisan deal, but said the government would not start deporting “Dreamers” who don’t have criminal records.
“They are not a priority for deportation,” he told reporters.
Kelly spoke as lawmakers have deadlocked in an effort to reach an immigration compromise. Barring an unlikely last-minute agreement, the Senate is expected to begin debating the issue next week, and it is unclear what if any plan will survive.
“We just don’t know where 60 votes are for any particular proposal,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., citing the votes needed for passage. Republicans have a slim majority and any measure will need around a dozen Democratic votes to succeed.
Kelly said Trump’s recent offer to provide a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million immigrants went “beyond what anyone could have imagined.” A bipartisan offer by six senators that Trump rejected would have made citizenship possible for the 690,000 “Dreamers” registered under the program, nicknamed DACA, which shields immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and stayed here illegally.
“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. “The difference between (690,000) 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.”
Immigration experts cite various reasons why people eligible for DACA’s protections do not apply. These include lack of knowledge about the program, a worry that participating will expose them to deportation and an inability to afford registration fees.
“I’m sorry for that characterization. It doesn’t surprise me from Gen. Kelly,” No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois, his party’s chief immigration negotiator, said of the White House staff chief’s remarks.
At a later bargaining session among lawmakers and White House officials, No. 2 House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland “had an exchange” with Kelly about the comments, Durbin said.
Hoyer later declined to describe his comments, saying, “I want to get a deal done.”
Durbin also scoffed at Kelly’s assertion that “Dreamers” would not be deported after the March 5 deadline arrives.
“It’s cold comfort to DACA people that if Congress does nothing, they’re still safe in the loving arms of the Department of Homeland Security,” said Durbin.
With leaders working on a separate track toward a budget pact, Trump threw a knuckle ball into the mix, saying he’d “love to see a shutdown” if Democrats didn’t meet his immigration demands.
Trump said last September that he was ending DACA but gave lawmakers until March 5 to pass legislation shielding the Dreamers. A federal judge has indefinitely blocked Trump from terminating the program’s protections, blunting the deadline’s immediate impact.
Many lawmakers are uneasy about what might happen to the Dreamers after March 5, and Democrats — and Trump himself — are using that uncertainty as leverage to help force a deal.
Kelly rejected the idea of asking lawmakers to extend the deadline, saying, “What makes them act is pressure.”
In exchange for making citizenship a possibility, Trump wants $25 billion for border security, including money to build parts of his coveted wall along the U.S.-Mexico boundary. He also wants to curb legal immigration, restricting the relatives that legal immigrants could sponsor for citizenship and ending a lottery that distributes visas to people from diverse places like Africa.
“I can’t imagine men and women of good will who begged this president to solve the problem of DACA” would oppose Trump’s proposal, Kelly said. He added, “Right now, the champion of all people who are DACA is Donald Trump.”
Democrats strongly oppose limiting legal immigration, and conservatives are against giving citizenship to DACA recipients, and Trump’s bill has gotten little traction in Congress. Durbin, his party’s chief vote counter, said Trump’s proposal would not get 60 Senate votes, saying, “I don’t think it will get any votes on the Democratic side.”
TWIN FALLS — Want to help solve a few mysteries? You’ll have a chance Saturday at the Twin Falls Public Library.
Over the decades, folks have donated many, many photos of people, places and buildings — some labeled and some not — and reference librarian Jennifer Hills needs your help identifying them.
And while it may be fun for younger generations to see the photos, Hills is looking for older residents who may have known some of the people or be familiar with some of the places in the photos.
Twin Falls architect Harald Gerber’s family donated to the library many slides, negatives and photos from the mid-20th century. But with more information, the photos would be even more valuable.
Things around the valley don’t look like they used to, she said. Two people may see the same photo, but the photo may bring up different memories for each.
“I’ve seen from going through the old photos that depending on when a picture was taken and how old you are,” Hills said, “your perspective and memory may be completely different from someone else’s.”
In addition, addresses may have changed because buildings were moved or, more likely, streets were renamed. Streets in downtown Twin Falls have been renamed not once but twice since its 1904 beginning.
“Some of the subjects in the photos are obvious,” Hills said. “But there may be other things — or a person — in the photo that someone might recognize.”
She hopes the library’s “photo ID party” will be like going through a surprise box of family pictures at a reunion. Many of the photos haven’t seen the light of day in decades.
All this information is invaluable to the library as the main depository of the town’s history. Hills hopes to hold more parties in the future.
“We are looking for factual information about the photos,” Hills said. “But we would also like to hear people’s stories about how and what they remember.”
The library will provide photos to peruse and work sheets for memories.
“The more people who can verify the photos, the more accurate our documentation can be,” Hills said. “We will never know the whole story, but something in a photo may spark a memory.”
Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the more information that comes together, the clearer the picture becomes, she said.
“Research always opens up another window.”
BURLEY — More than a week has passed since an arson fire blackened a Burley downtown vacant building and an undetonated bomb was found at the doorway of a business across the street. Rubble lies piled in the street surrounded by police tape and wires dangle from the side of the decimated building.
Still, no arrests have been made.
The state fire marshal posted signs on the building’s windows declaring the crime arson and offering up to a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible.
“A few tips have trickled in,” Cassia County Undersheriff George Warrell said.
Warrell said he will not release additional information.
The building at 1222 Overland Ave., was set on fire early Jan. 29. Firefighters putting out the fire discovered a pipe bomb across the street at an unopened restaurant tucked into the door handle. The bomb had a fuse that had been lit but went out. Both buildings are owned by businessmen Brek Pilling and his partner, Brian Tibbets.
A Nissan pickup wanted in connection with the incidents was recovered by the sheriff’s office, which is not releasing information about where it was discovered or who owns the truck.
State Fire Marshal investigator Verl Jarvie, who investigated the fire said someone had made an effort to ensure the building burned. The fire was set inside the building using paper and rags and a fire accelerant was found throughout the building, Jarvie said. Samples of the accelerant were sent to a lab for identification.
The vacant building next door was also destroyed by water damage.
Burley Fire Chief Shannon Tolman said about 100,000 gallons of water were used to extinguish the blaze, and the basement was full of water.