White House chief of staff John Kelly rebuked Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., for saying he was a "disgrace to the uniform" for serving in an administration that will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, saying Gutierrez and other lawmakers have taken no action to protect Dreamers.
"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 said in an email Sunday to Fox News. "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," Kelly said.
The Trump administration announced last week it will rescind DACA, effective March 5, 2018. With their deadline, the administration gave Congress a six-month window to pass legislation dealing with Dreamers, the name given to those brought to the U.S. illegally as children and who are offered legal protections under the Obama-era program.
After the Trump administration's announcement, Gutierrez accused Kelly of lying to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus about the future of Dreamers when he served as secretary of Homeland Security and said he has "no honor."
"Now as chief of staff, this former general is executing the plan to take away [Dreamers'] lifeline and taking steps to criminalize young people who live and work here," Gutierrez said in a statement last week. "General Kelly is a hypocrite who is a disgrace to the uniform he used to wear. He has no honor and should be drummed out of the White House along with the white supremacists and those enabling the president's actions by ‘just following orders.'"
But Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general and Gold Star father, argued there is broad agreement DACA is unconstitutional, and said he convinced Trump to give lawmakers time to pass legislation protecting Dreamers instead of ending DACA immediately.
"Every DOJ and DHS lawyer says DACA is unconstitutional. Every other legal scholar — right and left — says the same thing. Trump didn't end DACA, the law did," he said in his email. "That said, I worked and succeeded to give Congress another six months to do something. I am not confident."
The White House chief of staff also said he has spent the last eight months urging congressional Republicans and Democrats to pass a permanent fix for those offered legal protections under DACA.
"During my time at DHS — from 20 Jan until this moment — I have met with hundreds of members on both sides of the hill …" he said. "My [message] always was ‘I have bought you time to do something on DACA.' I begged and pleaded with them. They did exactly nothing."
There are currently 800,000 people between the ages of 15 and 36 who are protected from deportation under DACA. The Department of Homeland Security said there are 200,000 Dreamers whose permits expire between now and March 5 who could see their legal status end by the end of the year if they don't apply for renewal by Oct. 5