The Department of Homeland Security will begin DNA testing migrant families entering the U.S. at ports of entry or turning themselves in to Border Patrol in an effort to crack down on those they claim are “posing” as families for the purpose of human smuggling, CNN reported on Tuesday.
The testing, which was confirmed by two DHS officials, will begin as a pilot program and run for two to three days at two border locations. Through Rapid DNA testing, a cheek swab is used and can return DNA results in about 90 minutes.
During the pilot, Customs and Border Protection will make a referral for testing, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations will then issue the test. The DNA test information will reportedly not be stored or shared, an ICE official told CNN.
The pilot program is the Trump Administration’s latest effort to target migrants, specifically families, arriving in the U.S.
Last year, DHS used the excuse of “smuggling children” and migrant adults using children they weren’t related to to systemically separate families at the border. (The U.S. is still separating families today). At the time, DHS claimed it saw a 315 percent increase in cases of “adults with minors fraudulently posing as ‘family units’ to gain entry” from October 2017 to February 2018.
In a speech last month, former DHS Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen cited “fake families” using children as “pawns,” and said DHS had found “child recycling rings,” in which children were repeatedly used by adults to get into the country. Last week, CNN also reported CBP had begun fingerprinting some migrant children 14 years old and younger out of concern for alleged human smuggling—before, children were occasionally photographed and had other information collected, but not fingerprinted.
Now, with acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan having dubbed the family separation policy “effective” but “not worth it” for the hit in public trust for the department, and even President Donald Trump claiming they won’t restart the program, DNA testing is their latest effort to target migrant families.
Along with the use of DNA testing, ICE announced Monday that it’s moving resources and personnel to the southern border to investigate possible human smuggling and detect fraudulent documents being used to pass off “fake families,” according to the network.
“This is part of a larger investigative process. This is not screenings, this is not just random application of this, this is a pilot designed to assess the usefulness of this technology in an investigative process,” ICE acting Deputy Director Derek Benner told CNN.