Immigration and Customs Enforcement has started using DNA testing at seven locations along the southern border. Their aim is to identify individuals who pose as families, the agency said Monday.
The implementation of DNA testing in sections of the US-Mexico border is part of a new effort by the Trump administration to crack down on illegal immigration.
The DNA testing, in particular, takes direct aim at individuals posing as families at the border. The White House administration has argued that people are using children to get into the US, knowing they’ll be released.
There were 102 family DNA tests administered last week and 85 were found to have a familial connection, ICE said. Seventeen came out negative, and 16 of those were referred for prosecution.
Migrants have to be willing to take the test, which can provide results in about 90 minutes. The information collected in the DNA test is not stored or shared, ICE says.
The Department of Homeland Security has continually warned that children are being exploited by traffickers to skirt the nation’s immigration laws. Right now, the government can’t hold migrant children in detention for more than 20 days, often leading to the release of families, or groups posing as families. They are free until their immigration court hearing, a practice President Donald Trump has derided as “catch and release.”
The administration has argued that the limit on how long migrant children can be held in detention has prompted some people to pose as families.
As of December 21, 215,000 families taken into custody at the southern border have been released by ICE into the US, according to the agency.
The possibility of an interview or, more recently, a DNA test has led some migrants posing as families to concede that they are not related. In cases where migrants have conceded that they have no familial connection, ICE has referred the adults for criminal prosecution and turned over the minors to the care of the Health and Human Services Department.
“The funding that we have will give us the money to do tens of thousands of tests by the end of the fiscal year,” said Matthew Allen, HSI deputy executive associate director.