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John Kelly says some immigrants didn't sign up under DACA because they were "lazy"

Last Updated Feb 6, 2018 2:27 PM EST

White House chief of staff John Kelly on Tuesday called President Trump's decision to legalize a larger pool of immigrants "stunning and no one expected it."

Kelly, speaking to a small group of reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday, said the difference between the roughly 690,000 current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and the roughly 1.8 million young immigrants Mr. Trump wants to protect can be blamed on people being too afraid or too lazy to sign up for the protections established by former President Barack Obama. 

"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 a**es, but they didn't sign up."

Kelly's comments come after Mr. Trump has proposed to expand the number of young immigrants protected from deportation, included in his plan to create a "trust fund" for border wall funding and to eliminate extended family-based migration and the diversity visa lottery program. 

Kelly said he believes Mr. Trump won't extend protection for "Dreamers" beyond March 5 because he doesn't think the president has legal authority to prolong it. Kelly also said Mr. Trump won't ask Congress for a short-term extension of that program. Kelly said of lawmakers, "What makes them act is pressure."

Kelly also said "Dreamers" wouldn't be a priority for deportation, even if their Obama-era protections expire and a deadlocked Congress hasn't completed a deal to protect them. Kelly told the small group of reporters that as long as an immigrant in the U.S. illegally has no criminal record, they are likely to stay "out of anyone's scope" for a long time. 

"They are not a priority for deportation," Kelly said. 

It's a line the Trump administration has used in the past. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told "CBS This Morning" in an interview in January that deporting undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children would not be a priority for deportation if talks in Congress failed.