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."
SOUTH SIOUX CITY -- Chan Follen stood with her family in front of John Douangdara's photo.
They gazed at his proud face in his U.S. Navy uniform. A few tears welled in their eyes as they looked at the photo, mounted along with dozens of other Nebraskans who have died serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.
"It's still bittersweet to see it. Seeing the different faces, seeing all the additional memorabilia people have left," said Follen, Douangdara's sister.
A petty officer 1st class, Douangdara, a dog handler, died along with his service dog, Bart, and 37 others when their helicopter was shot down Aug. 6, 2011, in Afghanistan. Douangdara's photo is among those included in "Remembering Our Fallen," a traveling photo memorial that opened Tuesday at the College Center, 1001 College Way, in South Sioux City.
It was the first time the exhibit has visited South Sioux City, Douangdara's home town.
"For it to be in his home, it means a lot," Follen said.
The exhibit will be in town through Feb. 18. There is no admission fee.
Each of the fallen servicemen and women is memorialized with a military photo. Personal photos and items from each give the viewer a glimpse into the lives of each of the fallen -- a photo with a wife and young child, a senior class photo, letters from mothers, a favorite hat.
"It has the same impact every time," said Lonnie Ford, of Pender, Nebraska, whose son, U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Joshua Ford, was killed July 31, 2006, when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in a convoy in Iraq.
Ford worked with Bill and Evonne Williams, of Omaha, to create the memorial in 2011, and it's been booked every week since, Ford said. For the families of those who have died, it keeps their sons' and daughters' memories alive, reminding those who see it of the sacrifices so many families have made. Many of the families visit the memorial often.
"It brings tears to their eyes. All of us are still going through the grieving process," Ford said. "We share something in common and we can reach out to each other."
The exhibit also can remind viewers that they have much in common with those who have died, Follen said. They can come from any family, and a young child who may see the photos may someday grow up to serve his or her country, too.
"I hope they realize that all of these heroes, they're not professional athletes ... these are everyday heroes that are in our communities that gave their lives for our freedom," Follen said.
SIOUX CITY | The search for Briar Cliff University's 11th president continues after the candidate offered the job withdrew from consideration due to family obligations, the Sioux City college said Tuesday
College officials did not immediately identify the candidate.
The trustees, who had originally planned to announce the next president this week, instead voted to name Rachelle Karstens as interim president. Karstens has been overseeing the college's day-to-day operations in her role as executive vice president since last summer, following the resignation of the 10th president, Hamid "Ham" Shirvani.
"We appreciate and thank Rachelle for her dedication and commitment to Briar Cliff University," interim board chair Steve Freeman said in a statement. "We have a strong future rooted in our Franciscan values."
In December, the college announced three finalists had interviewed for the post: Kastens, Thomas Knothe, dean of business and leadership at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and Timothy Laurent, then-vice president of academic affairs at Providence University in Great Falls, Montana.
It was not immediately clear if any of the finalists remain in the running for the position, or if the college plans to restart its search.
According to the Briar Cliff statement Tuesday, Karstens has affirmed her commitment to the board of growing and advancing the college as the best place for students to learn and for faculty to teach.
"This is a very special university where students and faculty are dedicated to a high level of achievement," Karstens said in the statement. "It's exciting to help shape Briar Cliff's future."
Karstens has more than 20 years of experience as a practicing attorney, as well as administrative experience in higher education. Prior to coming to Briar Cliff, she served as executive director of philanthropy and alumni relations at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa; and served as the director of planned giving for the University of Iowa Foundation. She also practiced for 16 years as an attorney with Johnson Law Firm, P.C., in Montezuma, Iowa.
Shirvani announced his resignation as president in July, after 14 months on the job. During his brief stint with the college, Shirvani drew criticism for some of the changes he began to implement. A number of longtime faculty and staff also departed the college.
SIOUX CITY | Six doctors will for now be prohibited from holding ownership interests, consulting with or working for a new outpatient surgery center being developed in South Sioux City.
District Judge Duane Hoffmeyer has granted Pierce Street Same Day Surgery's request for a temporary injunction against the doctors until a trial can be held to determine if the physicians violated non-compete agreements they had with the surgery center while having some perceived role in the development of Riverview Surgical Center.
Hoffmeyer ruled that Drs. Adam Smith, William Samuelson, Kevin Liudahl, Joseph Morris, Terry Monk and Duane Nelson may not directly or indirectly through Tri-State Specialsts CEO Lee Hilka, invest in or promote the project or make other arrangements for ownership, operations, employment or consultation in it. Hoffmeyer said in his ruling that evidence presented thus far would likely lead a jury to find that the doctors violated their non-compete agreements.
"... it is evident each of the physicians and Mr. Hilka were, and presently still are, though aware of the non-compete provisions under which they obliged, in some manner assisted or otherwise Riverview in the opening of its own ASC (ambulatory surgical center) ...," Hoffmeyer wrote in his 28-page ruling, filed Monday in Woodbury County District Court.
Hoffmeyer denied Pierce Street's request for an injunction against Tri-State Specialists.
"Though an injunction may limit Riverview's marketing efforts and physician investor pool for a period of time, it is unlikely to delay or hinder the completion of the project enough to postpone its spring of 2019 target date," Hoffmeyer wrote.
Tri-State broke ground for the $37 million, 50,000-square-foot facility along the Missouri riverfront in November. Located next to the Delta Hotels by Marriot at 385 E. Fourth St., the center will contain operating rooms, medical offices and patient suites. Patients and families will have the option of staying in the adjacent hotel. The center, expected to open in 2019, will offer many of the same surgical services as Pierce Street.
In December, Pierce Street sued the doctors and Tri-State, saying that the doctors' non-compete provisions in individual operating agreements they signed with Pierce Street prohibit them from being involved with a competing hospital or surgery center within 30 miles of Pierce Street while they hold an interest in Pierce Street and for one year after leaving the company. Located at 2730 Pierce St., across the street from UnityPoint Health -- St. Luke's, Pierce Street is less than four miles from the Riverview site.
Pierce Street claims that the doctors and Tri-State were involved in planning and designing the center as early as 2015, when all six physicians named in the lawsuit had signed operating agreements containing the non-compete provisions in place with Pierce Street. The lawsuit includes claims of breach of contract, intentional interference with a contract, breach of duty of loyalty and conspiracy.
The physicians have denied investing in the Riverview project and have said they do not plan to have ownership, management or employment roles in it. They have argued that their non-compete agreements apply only toward involvement in existing surgery centers, not the creation of a new one.
The doctors, Hilka and Tri-State in January filed a counter lawsuit, claiming that Pierce Street wrongfully terminated operating agreements with the physicians and has interfered with potential business relationships involving the development of Riverview. The counter lawsuit, which also names former Tri-State member Dr. Matthew Steele, contains claims of breach of contract, slander/libel, conspiracy and misappropriation of trade secrets.