Lock 'em up, Nadler says of Trump officials who keep immigrant kids from parents

Trump cabinet members who fail to reunite immigrant children with their parents before a court-imposed deadline Thursday should be locked up, a New York congressman said Sunday.

“If I was a judge I would have them in front of me in court, and I would say, ‘If all the kids weren’t reunified by Thursday … you’re going to jail for civil contempt,’” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) said.

Nadler said he’d jail two cabinet members — Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. He’d also jail Ronald Vitiello, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“I call it what it really is — government-sponsored child abuse,” said Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

“When the Trump administration came up with this monstrous policy it did not even consider how it would eventually reunite these families.”

At a Judiciary Committee hearing last week, senior Homeland Security and Health and Human Services officials offered vague plans to reunite immigrant children with their parents.

Parents in immigration custody will be transferred to one of up to eight facilities. They’ll undergo questioning and DNA testing before their kids are reunited with them.

According to Nadler, the administration’s plans only apply to some families. “Right now the administration does not seem to have a plan to reunify all the kids," he said.

In closed-door meetings, administration officials offered “gobbledygook,” Nadler said.

"This administration was so intent in causing pain that it never even occurred to them to have a plan," he added.

The deadline to reunite immigrant children with their families was set in June by a federal judge in San Diego

More than 2,500 migrant children were separated from their parents at the southern border after President Trump issued a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.

Illegally entering the U.S. is a misdemeanor. Nadler complained that even immigrants who apply for asylum are charged.

“It doesn’t matter. They treat it as a crime,” he said. “What they’re really doing is deliberately torturing children in order to be a deterrent.”.

Nadler made his comments Sunday at a press conference in Foley Square in Lower Manhattan with Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) and Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan).

An immigrant advocate, Ravi Rabgir of the New Sanctuary Coalition, said at the news conference that some immigrant mothers in detention centers have been told several times by their jailers to change their clothes to prepare for reunions with their children that never happen.

“That is psychological torture,” Ragbir said.