- REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
John Kelly, the White House chief of staff and former Marine Corps general, on Monday responded to Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, who had called him a “disgrace to the uniform.”
Gutierrez made the comments after President Donald Trump announced his last week to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program that temporarily protects 800,000 young immigrants from deportation.
Kelly told Fox News that “irresponsible” Congress members like Gutierrez “have the luxury of saying what they want as they do nothing and have almost no responsibility.”
“They can call people liars, but it would be inappropriate for me to say the same thing back at them,” Kelly said. “As my blessed mother used to say, ‘Empty barrels make the most noise.'”
Kelly added that Congress did “nothing” to protect the recipients of the program, known as Dreamers, when they had the opportunity, but said Gutierrez “has a right to his opinion.”
Gutierrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent and has previously worked with Republicans on immigration reform, called Kelly a “hypocrite” who had betrayed Dreamers for political gain. He stood by his comments, which Sen. Lindsey Graham characterized as “slander,” last week after prominent Republicans and conservative media outlets expressed outrage.
“This is a man that says to me to my face, ‘I feel so bad for those Dreamers. I’m the only one between them and their deportation,'” Gutierrez told The Washington Post of Kelly. “Well, if you think it’s wrong, then act on your principle.”
Kelly has openly supported DACA in the past but argued that the program, created by executive action, must be replaced with a legislative solution. He advised Trump to end DACA and give Congress six months to pass such a fix.
Gutierrez said Kelly and other Republicans in favor of protecting DACA recipients should take on “your own right-wing, xenophobic, anti-immigrant sectors of your party.”
“If I saw someone in need and I did nothing, I’d be defacing my own humanity,” the congressman said.