Although no detailed statistics have been released by the government, it is now known that DNA tests are being performed on children and parents in an attempt to reunite migrant families separated at the US border. More than 2500 children were separated from their parents in 2 months due to the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy. Many were scattered in facilities across the country by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
After widespread criticism over the family separations, the Trump administration laid out a plan to reunite the parents and children. The administration must also meet several deadlines demanded by a federal judge. By 26th July, all children must be reunited with their parents.
Commenting on the DNA testing, a federal official said: “The safety and security is paramount, and it is not uncommon for children to be trafficked or smuggled by those claiming to be parents. To our knowledge, this is a cheek swab and is being done to expedite parental verification and ensuring reunification with verified parents due to child welfare concerns.”
It is not known how long the Immigration DNA testing has been taking place, if the testing requires consent, or if the DNA is stored in a database. But concerns have been raised about the collection of sensitive data. RAICES, a nonprofit in Texas that offers free and low-cost legal services to immigrants and refugees, called the move deplorable, stating it would allow the government to conduct surveillance on the children for the rest of their lives. The organization claimed that the families have not been registered properly; and questioned how migrant children – some as young as 2 months old — can give their consent to DNA testing.
Lengthy interviews are being conducted with parents about their children, asking questions such as where their children were born and whether they have distinguishing marks. It may be that a lack of information is making DNA testing necessary. Blood tests have also been reported.
“Unfortunately, records haven’t been kept”, said an emergency physician who has been treating children in detention centers. “DNA’s probably going to be our only way of doing that and ensuring these kids get back to a safe home.”
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