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: 319428

Reported Deaths: 7361
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22264265
Hinds20645421
Harrison18386317
Rankin13864282
Jackson13678248
Madison10237224
Lee10052176
Jones8458167
Forrest7822153
Lauderdale7257242
Lowndes6498149
Lamar633688
Lafayette6301120
Washington5419136
Bolivar4835133
Panola4664110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4599147
Marshall4572105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425073
Monroe4155135
Union415576
Neshoba4059179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386087
Leflore3515125
Tate342386
Sunflower339391
Pike3368111
Alcorn324172
Scott319574
Yazoo314171
Itawamba305078
Adams304985
Copiah299666
Coahoma298383
Simpson298189
Tippah291768
Prentiss283661
Leake271774
Marion271280
Covington267183
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George251951
Newton248663
Tishomingo231268
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190374
Clay187754
Stone187433
Tallahatchie179941
Clarke178980
Calhoun174032
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135347
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee127934
Perry126638
Amite126142
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Tunica108027
Jefferson Davis107833
Claiborne103030
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman81916
Choctaw79018
Wilkinson69332
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548163

Reported Deaths: 11281
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809371565
Mobile42040826
Madison35654524
Tuscaloosa26161458
Shelby25588254
Montgomery25080611
Baldwin21833313
Lee16259175
Calhoun14714325
Morgan14621285
Etowah14166362
Marshall12447230
Houston10764288
Elmore10293212
Limestone10179157
St. Clair10158250
Cullman9935201
Lauderdale9592249
DeKalb8965189
Talladega8455184
Walker7334280
Autauga7230113
Blount6938139
Jackson6919113
Colbert6411140
Coffee5626127
Dale4929114
Russell454541
Chilton4472116
Franklin431083
Covington4272122
Tallapoosa4133155
Escambia401780
Chambers3724123
Dallas3606156
Clarke352861
Marion3241106
Pike314078
Lawrence3125100
Winston283572
Bibb268264
Geneva257281
Marengo250665
Pickens236662
Barbour234659
Hale226778
Butler224071
Fayette218162
Henry193843
Cherokee187245
Randolph186944
Monroe179341
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155357
Cleburne153144
Lamar146237
Lowndes142054
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113330
Coosa111529
Perry108726
Sumter105732
Greene93434
Choctaw61725
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