White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly issued a stinging response to Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez, after the Illinois lawmaker said Kelly's position on DACA qualified him as a "disgrace to the uniform he used to wear."
"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 told Fox News Sept. 10. "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.'"
Gutierrez attacked Kelly in early September for serving the Trump administration as it moves to phase out the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program.
USMC photo by Sgt. Zachary Mott.
"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,'" Gutierrez said in a statement issued hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA will be phased out.
The DACA program, implemented through executive action in 2012, protects roughly 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children from deportation and provides temporary work visas for those who qualify.
Kelly defended the administration's decision to roll back the program, suggesting the move was a response to the program's dubious constitutional status, rather than a personal decision made by Trump.
Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Photo under public domain.
"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. That said, I worked and succeeded to give the congress another six months to do something. I am not confident," he said.
Gutierrez's office took issue with Kelly's characterization of the program's constitutionality, arguing the program has never been challenged in court.
"The constitutionality of DACA has never been challenged successfully in court and the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the program, certainly never questioned its constitutionality at its inception or while hundreds of thousands signed up for it," Gutiérrez spokesman Douglas Rivlin told Fox News.
The Trump administration repealed the program under threat of an impending lawsuit from a coalition of conservative state attorneys general. Trump seemed to soften following the announcement, expressing hope that Congress would codify amnesty for Dreamers through legislation before the six month reprieve period expires.