John Kelly, the White House chief of staff and former Marine Corps general, responded to comments from Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, an Illinois Democrat, who called him a "disgrace to the uniform" following President Donald Trump's decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program that protects 800,000 young immigrants from deportation.
Kelly responded to Gutiérrez's remarks on Monday, telling Fox News that "irresponsible" congressmembers like Gutiérrez "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 so-called Dreamers when they had the opportunity, but said Gutiérrez "has a right to his opinion."
Gutiérrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent and has worked with Republicans in the past on immigration reform, called Kelly a "hypocrite" who has betrayed Dreamers for political gain. He stood by his comments last week, after prominent Republicans and conservative media outlets expressed outrage over what Sen. Lindsay Graham characterized as "slander."
"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,'" Gutiérrez told The Washington Post. "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 a legislative fix.
Gutiérrez stood by his comments last week, arguing that Kelly and other Republicans in favor of protecting DACA recipients should "tak[e] 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.
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