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.

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Thousands nationwide protest family separations at U.S.-Mexico border
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Thousands nationwide protest family separations at U.S.-Mexico border
Demonstrators carrying signs, including one reading "Save America", march during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Demonstrators carrying signs reading "Abolish ICE" and "I Really Do Care", referencing the coat recently worn by First Lady Melania Trump, march during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Demonstrators gather on the Boston Common during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains profanity.) A Demonstrator participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Demonstrators participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Demonstrators participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Demonstrators participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: A demonstrator participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: A demonstrator participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
People hold placards during a 'Familes Belong Together' march and rally in Los Angeles, California on June 30, 2018 where a thousands turned out to decry the Trump administration's detention of families policy at the US Mexico border. - Thousands of demonstrators, baking in the heat and opposed to the US immigration policy, marched across the country Saturday, June 30, 2018 to protest the separation of families under President Donald Trump's hardline agenda. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold placards during a 'Familes Belong Together' march and rally in Los Angeles, California on June 30, 2018 where a thousands turned out to decry the Trump administration's detention of families policy at the US Mexico border. - Thousands of demonstrators, baking in the heat and opposed to the US immigration policy, marched across the country Saturday, June 30, 2018 to protest the separation of families under President Donald Trump's hardline agenda. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Demonstrators march against the separation of immigrant families, on June 30, 2018 in New York. - Demonstrations are being held across the US Saturday against President Donald Trump's hardline immigration policy. (Photo by EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON,DC-JUNE30: Lauren Unterberger, 16, from Wilmington, DE, protests against family separation in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON,DC-JUNE30: Sufia Bassett, 32, from Bethlehem, PA, originally from Equador, protests against family separation in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON,DC-JUNE30: Lara Carlson, 50, from Maine, protests against family separation in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON,DC-JUNE30: Lauren Unterberger, 16, from Wilmington, DE, protests against family separation in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Protesters stand outside the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Protesters stand outside the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Marisa Esparza, 19, of Orange, walks with her sign outside the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march down Irvine Blvd. from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: People line the stadium at Portola High School during a rally to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families, in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: U.S. Representative Lou Correa applauds holocaust survivor Margaret Houffelaar, 91, of Laguna Woods, during a rally at Portola High School Saturday to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
One-year-old Yara Pejan sits by a sign that refers to Trump's immigration policy separating children from their parents, during a rally in Laguna Beach on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Mindy Schauer/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: People line the stadium at Portola High School during a rally to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families, in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: A pro-Trump counter demonstrator holds a sign toward protesters decrying Trump administration immigration and refugee policies on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Although President Trump was forced to reverse his policy of removing all children from their immigrant or asylum-seeking parents, little clarity appears to be seen as to how agencies can fulfill a court order to reunite thousands of children and parents detained far apart by multiple agencies. Yesterday, the Justice Department filed papers in a Los Angeles federal court to have families arrested for illegal border crossings incarcerated together indefinitely. The rally is one of more than 700 such protests being held throughout the nation. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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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.

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