White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Monday responded to a Democratic congressman who said he was a “disgrace to the uniform” after President Donald Trump announced the end of the DACA program.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) wrote after Trump announced the end of DACA on Sept. 5 that “General Kelly, when he was the head of Homeland Security, lied straight to the faces of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus about preventing the mass deportation of DREAMers. Now as Chief of Staff, this former general is executing the plan to take away their lifeline and taking steps to criminalize young people who live and work here legally. General Kelly is a hypocrite who is a disgrace to the uniform he used to wear.”
Kelly responded late Sunday in an email to Fox News, the network reported.
“As far as the congressman and other irresponsible members of congress are concerned, they have the luxury of saying what they want as they do nothing and have almost no responsibility,” Kelly wrote, referring to Gutiérrez’s statement. “They can call people liars but it would be inappropriate for me to say the same thing back at them. As my blessed mother used to say ‘empty barrels make the most noise.’”
“The congressman has a right to his opinion,” he said.
Kelly also argued that “Every DOJ and DHS lawyer says DACA is unconstitutional,” and that “Trump didn’t end DACA, the law did,” perhaps referring to a threat from multiple Republican attorneys general to include DACA into a larger lawsuit against the government.
Gutierrez spokesperson Douglas Rivlin didn’t appreciate the response.
“[S]o far we have seen no courage to fight for DREAMers from the President or his Chief of Staff,” he said, according to Fox News. “There is a clear majority in the House today to support measures to defend DACA recipients, but Republicans need to choose whether they want to let that happen or not. So far, the answer is not.”
Gutiérrez is one of the House’s strongest advocates for undocumented immigrants. On Aug. 15, he was arrested at a pro-DACA, pro-Temporary Protected Status rally.
In his statement after Trump ended DACA, Gutiérrez seemed to be referring to a July meeting between Kelly — who then led the Department Homeland Security — and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. At the time, the congressman was similarly critical of Kelly for not exercising his authority to prevent deportations.
“He either does not understand his authority under current law or was stonewalling or doing a very convincing job of playing dumb – or maybe some combination of the three,” Gutiérrez wrote in July.
Kelly has said before that Congress should act to protect undocumented immigrants.
“If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws. Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines,” he said in a speech in April.
Congress has acted on the issue multiple times in recent years — though never with sufficient support to reach the President’s desk.