The first closed-door meeting between House Democrats and
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly took place amid news of a wave of undocumented immigrants being detained across the country.
After attempting to arrange the meeting for more than two weeks, Democrats finally got their wish on Friday, however, they were met with a “belligerent,” “tense,” and “rude,” Kelly, according to several sources who attended the meeting, Politico reported Friday night.
“He’s literally talking in circles,” said Rep. Tony Cardenas of California, who was reported to have left the meeting early due to Kelly’s attitude. “It’s pretty damn frustrating.”
“I’m the best thing that happened to DACA … it is still on the books,” Kelly was reported as saying, referring to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program initiated by President Barack Obama to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children.
“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 was alleged to say.
This would not be the first time Democrats on the Hill left on sour terms after meeting with an immigration official. Last month, several rank-and-file lawmakers claimed they were forced out of a bipartisan briefing with acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan.
“I’m pretty shaken,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois said at the time, according to Politico. “I’ve been here 25 years and I’ve never been told by the Speaker of the House that I can’t attend a meeting I’ve requested.”
DHS spokesman David Lapan refuted the lawmakers’ accounts about their face time with Kelly, saying that they were “not descriptive of the meeting.”
“Secretary Kelly spent an hour with more than 100 House Democrats in response to their request and to answer as many questions as he could in the time allotted,” Lapan wrote in an email to Politico. “In addition to responding to questions, he committed to continue to engage with them.”
When told that his department’s agents weren’t following the rules in pursuing undocumented immigrants, he was reported to have been “incredulous.” Kelly dispelled the notion that his agents were detaining their subjects from “sensitive areas,” such as churches and schools; and reiterated that they were focused on targeting those with criminal records.
“I can guarantee you we’re not going after kids that are fully DACA qualified,” Kelly said. “Give me a break will you?”
Representatives also broached the subject of Trump’s revised executive order that restricted immigration from six majority-Muslim countries, the same one that was slapped down by federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland on Thursday.
Kelly responded by debunking the claim that the executive order was a “Muslim ban,” and that they planned on litigating it up to the Supreme Court.
“It was a very military presentation.” Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona said.
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