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USA to roll out DNA testing at Mexico border

7 May 2019
Appeared in BioNews 997

The USA's Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expected to initiate a DNA testing pilot programme this week at the USA-Mexico border, in efforts to verify genetic relationships within families entering the USA.

This programme employs rapid DNA testing technology, which will be used to process DNA from cheek swabs in about 90 minutes. The pilot programme will take place at two border locations and run for two to three weeks.

A DHS official told CNN that: 'An individual consenting to DNA testing will be instructed to swab his or her own cheeks, while being observed by agents and qualified technicians supplied by the vendor.

'The adult will then be instructed to swab the cheeks of his or her claimed child.'

The pilot programme is being launched amid a more than threefold increase in the number of adults with unrelated children fraudently posing as a family unit, according to the DHS. Immigration officials have also reported that last year they identified 3100 individuals who lied about being part of a family or claimed that someone who was over the age of 18 was a minor. 

An agreement called the Flores settlement currently restricts the detainment of families with children to 20 days. Government officials have said that children are being exploited on the basis of this settlement agreement.

Kirstjen Nielsen, the former Secretary of Homeland Security, said: 'Smugglers and traffickers have caught on, advertising a "free ticket" into America. As a result, the flow of families and children has become a flood. Cases of "fake families" are popping up everywhere. And children are being used as pawns.

'In fact, we have uncovered "child recycling rings", truly, child re-victimisation rings, a process by which innocent children are used multiple times to help aliens gain illegal entry. As a nation we cannot stand for this.'

The testing will be voluntary and the information obtained from the tests will not be stored by the DHS or any other federal agencies. However, some have raised concerns that this form of DNA testing raises serious issues.

Vera Eidelman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said: 'This is yet another example of the Trump administration seeking to intimidate and deter asylum seekers.

'The government claims it does not plan to store or share the information collected from these intrusive and coercive tests for now, but the fact that it is even building out this surveillance infrastructure - using the pretext of the border - should trouble us all.'

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