Democrats confront Kelly over DACA comments in closed-door meeting

White House chief of staff John Kelly was confronted by lawmakers in a closed-door meeting about comments he made Tue...

Posted: Feb 7, 2018 12:59 PM
Updated: Feb 7, 2018 12:59 PM

White House chief of staff John Kelly was confronted by lawmakers in a closed-door meeting about comments he made Tuesday that some immigrants who didn't apply for protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program were "too lazy."

Kelly reiterated his sentiment, according to people in the room, and did so with reporters after the meeting, as well, saying "some of them just should have probably gotten off the couch and signed up."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer brought up Kelly's comments earlier in the day that some young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children were "too lazy to get off their asses" and apply for the DACA program under the Obama administration, according to people in the room.

The meeting in House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office was a regular meeting of the party's whips or seconds in command in both chambers with Kelly, White House officials and the homeland security secretary for stalled negotiations on how to make DACA permanent after Trump decided to terminate it.

The incident reveals the continued tension between the White House and conservative Republicans and Democrats as they debate the politically toxic issue of immigration -- but also how both sides feel that they have to remain at the table despite the distrust.

According to Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin and another source in the room at the Tuesday evening meeting, Hoyer brought up the comments and there was some back and forth. According to the source in the room, voices were not raised, but Kelly did rebut the concern.

"He took exception to that, and they had an exchange," Durbin said.

Hoyer declined to talk about it. "I'm not going to get into specific discussions because I don't think that would be helpful," he told reporters.

A source inside the meetings said that in general the sessions don't include disrespectful tones or raised voices, but the deep divisions are apparent.

"The number of times people in the room say 'with all due respect' is really funny, because it's almost to the point they joke about it now," the source said. "It's a bit of a running joke in that group, 'with all due respect,' because usually it's followed by something else. It's just a pointed policy difference, and there's nothing wrong with that."

From 'too lazy' to 'probably gotten off the couch'

Tuesday morning, Kelly told reporters about undocumented immigrants who hadn't signed up for DACA that "some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn't sign up."

Asked to clarify later in the day, Kelly reiterated the sentiment. He also portrayed Trump, who ended DACA but has proposed a plan that would offer the whole population a pathway to citizenship in exchange for sharp immigration cuts and changes and his border wall, as the population's savior.

"Some of them didn't hear about the program. Hard to believe, but OK. Some of them were perhaps a little bit concerned about signing up when many, many people in their neighborhood signed up three times, two or three times. But OK, fine," Kelly said. "But I've got to tell you, the rest of them who are claiming, not even claiming, have been granted essentially DACA status by the President of the United States, who has become the champion, I believe, for 1.8 million people who are now considered kind of DACA.

"I've got to say that some of them just should have probably gotten off the couch and signed up, but that doesn't really matter now, because President Trump has given them the status," Kelly added.

Lawmakers take offense

Kelly's comments drew condemnation from both sides of the aisle Tuesday.

Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a strong advocate on the right for DACA, called the comments "unfortunate" and the sentiment "insensitive."

"I don't want to attribute that sentiment to Gen. Kelly, because the way he said it was that 'others say.' I hope he doesn't personally feel that way," Curbelo said. "Whether he feels that way or not, he shouldn't echo that sentiment, because that's just totally insensitive."

Curbelo added that many DACA eligible people were afraid to come out of the shadows and provide their information to the government given the uncertainty. Others have pointed out the $500 fee could be a factor, as could being old enough for the program.

"These are young people who at the time, a lot of people told them, 'you're signing your deportation orders.' ... So I understand why many of them decided not to come forward, especially given what we see playing out now," Curbelo said.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which consists of all Democrats, also objected.

California Rep. Nanette Diaz Barrag-n referenced an earlier meeting last year when Kelly was homeland security secretary with the caucus when he said "he was the best thing that happened to DACA," in her recollection.

"John Kelly was here meeting with CHC talking about how he helped the President evolve on DACA. And what we've really seen is John Kelly evolve on DACA," Barragan said. "Just to see him come out today and talk about being lazy -- its appalling to me, it's just despicable," she added.

Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham said the comments were "not surprising" but "incredibly offensive."

"This is the Kelly I know, a guy who is incredibly consistent," Lujan Grisham said, referencing the same previous comments. "And to be again punitive by using that term 'lazy' and creating yet another discriminatory, divisive statement about minorities, I find incredibly offensive and part of the status quo with this administration."

The meeting between Kelly and top lawmakers Tuesday afternoon had members sounding positive.

"After 10 meetings, achieving nothing, anything looks like progress, and at least we had what sounded like a positive conversation, but no agreements" Durbin said.

"It was, I think, useful," Hoyer said. "I think there was some progress in that we discussed specifics, no agreements, it was a meeting and I think we went away with saying, 'Well, I think we made some progress.'"

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 471092

Reported Deaths: 9165
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32160471
Hinds30628574
DeSoto29693344
Jackson23098335
Rankin21062357
Lee14515218
Madison13993264
Jones13112218
Forrest12926231
Lauderdale11301294
Lowndes10206171
Lamar10017125
Pearl River8616208
Lafayette8052136
Hancock7172111
Washington6816146
Oktibbeha6799117
Neshoba6377201
Monroe6343158
Warren6310159
Pontotoc607692
Panola6056123
Bolivar5991143
Marshall5948116
Union562385
Pike5450133
Lincoln5217129
Alcorn516288
George456466
Scott450392
Leflore4392140
Prentiss435275
Itawamba433295
Tippah432480
Simpson4251110
Copiah424784
Wayne422363
Tate4202100
Adams4184110
Yazoo412486
Sunflower4077104
Covington406591
Marion4016100
Leake390485
Coahoma387098
Newton361674
Grenada3511100
Stone343757
Tishomingo323788
Attala319685
Jasper309562
Winston299191
Clay286172
Chickasaw280564
Clarke275587
Calhoun258539
Holmes258585
Smith242246
Yalobusha216447
Tallahatchie214949
Walthall204657
Lawrence203231
Greene202645
Perry195753
Webster191642
Amite191451
Noxubee174438
Montgomery169453
Jefferson Davis164341
Carroll159437
Tunica147634
Benton138232
Kemper136939
Claiborne125534
Choctaw124424
Humphreys123037
Franklin114327
Quitman101425
Wilkinson98435
Jefferson86332
Sharkey61720
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 761865

Reported Deaths: 12856
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1087131712
Mobile696141168
Madison47959565
Baldwin35517431
Shelby34948283
Tuscaloosa32719498
Montgomery32358648
Lee21708200
Calhoun19823367
Morgan19140308
Etowah18450414
Marshall17138255
Houston15970340
St. Clair14803270
Limestone13986179
Elmore13893240
Cullman13892229
Lauderdale12986264
Talladega12235203
DeKalb11788220
Walker10110304
Autauga9416120
Blount9329149
Jackson9026132
Coffee8598153
Colbert8257160
Dale8204143
Escambia639399
Tallapoosa6315165
Covington6265153
Chilton6188128
Russell588353
Franklin560093
Chambers5182127
Dallas4595174
Marion4540114
Clarke447871
Pike441488
Geneva419499
Winston402682
Lawrence4018101
Bibb392976
Barbour335567
Marengo318878
Monroe308244
Butler307679
Pickens297366
Henry290752
Randolph290055
Hale284081
Cherokee277249
Fayette269769
Washington242244
Crenshaw229463
Clay220261
Macon212554
Cleburne207346
Lamar185538
Conecuh175237
Lowndes168156
Coosa161531
Wilcox153533
Bullock146242
Perry133132
Sumter122735
Greene118241
Choctaw71925
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