White House Chief of Staff John Kelly faced well-deserved backlash earlier this week when he said that some young immigrants brought to the United States as minors were “too lazy to get off their asses” and apply for legal protections under an Obama-era program—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—that the Trump administration has plunged into uncertainty. Confronted by Democratic lawmakers for his demeaning language toward those known as Dreamers, Kelly didn't back down, saying they should have “probably gotten off the couch and signed up.” Kelly’s word choices evoke a repugnant history of GOP politicians subtly or explicitly demeaning people of color, whether Ronald Reagan taking aim at so-called “welfare queens” or Paul Ryan’s racially-tinged description of “makers and takers.”
Along with being callous, Kelly’s remarks are emblematic of a Trump administration that is heavy on obnoxious rhetorical bluster and thin on facts. One of the most formidable barriers for many eligible immigrants to apply for DACA status is the cost. It's $495 to apply, and another $495 to renew the protections every two years. A Migration Policy Institute report estimates that more than one-third of people eligible for the program live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level. Dreamers distinguish themselves in the military, at Catholic universities, and in communities with their sacrifice and commitment. And corporate America has urged the administration to protect these immigrants. More than 400 business leaders, including the CEO’s of Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, signed on to a letter touting how Dreamers “grow and create jobs,” and highlighted how they are “vital to the future of our companies and our economy.”
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