US Using DNA Tests To Reunite Children With Migrant Parents

Leroy Wright
July 6, 2018

A U.S. judge has ordered the Trump administration to reunite the families it separated at the border - but does that include kids with parents who have already been deported?

"It's deplorable they are using the guise of reuniting children to collect even more sensitive data about very young children", said Jennifer Falcon of RAICES, a Texas-based group that is representing migrant families.

'We have not sent children into ICE custody yet pursuant to the court's order but we will do so as we approach the court's deadline, ' he said Thursday on a call with reporters.

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The development comes a day after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told NBC News that the government was using DNA testing to help reunite parents with their children.

"If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law".

The federal judge's order on June 26 said that families must be reunited within 30 days, and children younger than five must be reunited with their parents within 14 days.

The government's pace in reuniting families has drawn criticism from immigration advocates.

Lawyers for the agency argue that meeting an upcoming July 10 court-mandated deadline to reunite children under age 5 and a subsequent deadline to reunite the almost 3,000 remaining children later this month would be hard.

Immigration activists say the that DNA data can be easily abused once it is collected by the U.S. government, and may be used to track a migrant's whereabouts. "It's not here", Azar said in a conference call.

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Azar, throughout, maintained today's situation is the fault of immigrants, Congress, and the courts - not the Trump administration who separated families as a means to deter migration.

Azar hailed the department for the "excellent" care the detained migrant children were receiving and boasted that HHS "knows the identity and location of every minor in our care".

Mr. Azar said he's surged manpower to meet the court orders.

"We will comply with the artificial deadlines created by the court, deadlines that were not informed by the process needed to vet parents, including confirming parentage, as well as confirming the suitability of placement with that parent", said Azar.

"The fact that the USA government lost track of which child goes with which parent shows you the lack of competence that they have about this issue".

Azar said DNA testing is being used to speed up matching parents and children. Approximately 100 of those children are under the age of five, he added. As Vox's Dara Lind points out, a Department of Justice lawyer had said earlier that DHS had generally noted if a kid was separated from their parent or came unaccompanied in the child's case file.

He also said that the usual method of verifying a parent's claims, such as tracking down birth certificates or other documents, would take too long to meet the deadlines.

Jennifer Falcon with the immigration advocacy group RAICES, tweeted that the decision is "further proof the administration has no idea how to reunite families", that were separated after illegally crossing the USA border under President Donald Trump's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy.

Shortly before Azar spoke, President Donald Trump took to Twitter, showing no signs of backing away from "zero tolerance".

Other kids whose parents have gone through deportation proceedings will have been reunited with them in order to be removed with them back to their country of origin.

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