Congressional Democrats have been pressing to have a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly for over a month. They got it on Friday. And, unsurprisingly, they are not happy. Via Politico:
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly struck a defiant tone in a meeting with House Democrats Friday, lawmakers said, telling them he’s “the best thing to happen” to immigrants brought here as minors — and if members don’t like current laws, they should change them.
“I’m the best thing that happened to DACA…. it is still on the books,” Kelly said, referring to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program that shields undocumented immigrants brought here as children from deportation.
“If you don’t like the law we are enforcing, and I don’t like many of them, please, please, please change the law,” Kelly added, according to multiple sources in the room.
This was the first meeting for House Democrats with a cabinet-level official in President Donald Trump’s administration and came after relations have further frayed over the White House crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
A number of Democrats left the caucus-wide confab visibly frustrated, saying Kelly wasn’t providing substantive answers to questions and describing him as “belligerent,” “tense” and “rude.”
It doesn’t seem like Kelly gave any ground. He also made it very clear that if it hadn’t been for him, DACA would be dead.
Members said they didn’t get any clarity on what would happen to DACA, which Trump promised to dismantle on the first day of his presidency but has not done yet. Two members said Kelly made comments about how his leadership has been a good thing for DACA recipients, although they weren’t sure what he meant. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said Kelly suggested “he is the best friend that DACA has ― he repeated that more than once.”
“He basically said that he’s best thing that ever happened to DACA folks in the last few months,” Cárdenas said.
Kelly didn’t tell reporters what would happen to DACA, either, other than to say that his focus would be deporting criminals.
“I told them that I have a lot of things on my plate, a lot of criminals to apprehend and deport that are here illegally ― criminals beyond just the fact that they’re here illegally ― and the least of my worries right now is anyone who falls into the general category of DACA,” Kelly said.
Taken in total context, though, it seems pretty clear that the days of DACA are numbered and if Congress wants them to stay, Congress needs to regularize the system.
“Pretty damn frustrating that he’s not answering questions,” Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), who walked out midway through, told reporters. “He’s just going around in circles.”
A more accurate assessment would be that Cárdenas could not intimidate and bully Kelly, that he got a lot of answers, he just didn’t get the answers he wanted.