The Trump administration is just days away from the July 26 deadline to reunite all migrant children separated from their parents at the border.
But, following a briefing with federal officials last week, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said he has no confidence the administration will be able to reunite all of the families in time.
"At this briefing they could not give us basic information about the status of the children or why the administration has failed to meet court orders requiring reunification," said Nadler at a press conference in Manhattan on Sunday. "What they have instead are haphazard arrangements that just lead to chaos and more heartbreak."
If they miss Thursday's deadline, he said the heads of the departments of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security should be held accountable.
"If I were the judge I would have them in front of me in court and if all the kids hadn't been reunified by then I would say 'ok you're going to jail for civil contempt until the last kid is reunified,'" he said.
Nadler is the top-ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, one of three Congressional committees to be briefed by federal officials last week.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) also railed against the administration. "History will judge you, voters will judge you, maybe as soon as November," Velazquez said.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement is coordinating the reunifications with other agencies. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At issue is not simply whether the families will be reunited, but how.
Judith Goldiner with the Legal Aid Society, which represents about 70 separated children in New York City, said children are being sent back to Texas, far away from their lawyers to facilities where they sleep on floors and don't have enough to eat.
"They want to send them there because they want them to give up their asylum rights," she said. "They were traumatized in their home countries. That's why they came here. They were traumatized by being removed from their parents and they only right now have some stability here," she said.
The lawmakers and advocates said parents should be reunited with their children in New York instead.
Legal Aid won a court ruling last week that requires 48 hours before separated children in New York can be reunited with their parents. This is to ensure that the children can meet with a lawyer before rejoining their families. In some cases, a family may wish for a child to fight for asylum in the U.S. instead of joining parents in detention, or getting deported with them.