Hispanic lawmakers on Tuesday blasted White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE for saying President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE's immigration plan would generously help immigrants "too lazy" to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
"The man that everybody said was going to steer … a steady course and bring some balance to the White House, Mr. Kelly, is not that person, and he is clearly part of the xenophobic right that is entrenched in this White House," said Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), head of the immigration task force for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).
"What is the stereotype that is always used? If we're not criminals, we're lazy," Gutiérrez said.
Kelly's comments to reporters earlier Tuesday came as he defended Trump's plan to grant a path to citizenship for 1.8 million so-called Dreamers — immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children — in exchange for enhanced border security, changes to family reunification visas and an end to the diversity visa program.
“The difference between 690 [thousand] and 1.8 million were the people 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,” said Kelly.
“So the president, shockingly, said OK, 1.8 million, and then probably the biggest shock was in a path to citizenship. That’s beyond what anyone could have imagined.”
CHC Chairwoman Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamDemocrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms Hochul makes New York the 31st state to have had a female governor New Mexico indoor mask mandate returns with new vaccine requirements MORE (D-N.M.) said Kelly's statement was inaccurate, as many of the Dreamers who didn't apply for DACA were ineligible because of their age.
“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," said Lujan Grisham.
The 690,000 figure refers to the number of Dreamers who were enrolled in DACA on Sept. 5, 2017, when Trump moved to end the program.
According to different estimates, there are as many as 4 million Dreamers in the United States.
Nearly 800,000 of those Dreamers have at some point been DACA beneficiaries, but just over 100,000 lost that status by leaving the country, transitioning to a new status, failing to renew or being accused or convicted of criminal or gang activity.
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2,130 DACA recipients had their benefits pulled because of criminal or gang activity.
Kelly's comments were the latest flare-up in a tense relationship he's had with the CHC since he joined the Trump administration as Secretary of Homeland Security.
CHC members at times have praised Kelly for his willingness to meet with the group, but they've also criticized his management of the administration's immigration policy — especially after comments like the one he made on Tuesday.
Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.), who had a tense exchange with Kelly at a CHC meeting in July, said the chief of staff, once seen as a moderating influence on the administration, has turned out to be anything but that.
"He's only moved far to the right," said Barragan.
But Lujan Grisham said Kelly's comments are typical for the chief of staff. "Kelly's comments are, for me, not surprising,” she said.
“This is the Kelly I know.”