A pilot program DNA-testing immigrants at the Southern border will start next week and run for two to three days. Both ICE and Customs and Border Protection will be involved in the pilot.
Allegedly, it is a new effort to crack down on fraud, Homeland Security officials said on Wednesday. The point of the program is to catch immigrants who are posing as a family with children in order to be released from detention after 20 days since that’s as long as children can legally be held in immigration detention centers. The results of the DNA test will be available in about 90 minutes.
Vera Eidelman, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project said the plan is “another example of the Trump administration seeking to intimidate and deter asylum seekers.”
“The government is clearly interested in learning more than an individual’s identity in this instance,” Eidelman told CBS News. “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. With other government actors, from local law enforcement agencies to the FBI, also rolling out Rapid DNA systems, it is not hard to imagine a nightmare of a centralized government database.”
Migrants falsely posing as families happens in about 1% of cases of people attempting to cross the border, according to BuzzFeed News. Over the last year, 256,821 family units were apprehended at the United States’ southern border. Only 3,100 lied about being part of a family or said someone older than 18 was a child.
But facts and statistics continue to not matter to the Trump administration.
“Smugglers and traffickers have caught on, advertising a ‘free ticket’ into America,” former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen alleged in a speech in April. “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.”
President Donald Trump has kept up his dismay that children can no longer be separated from their parents, even though a recent report said that thousands of migrant children are potentially missing in government care.
Trump has also described the crisis at the border as “Disneyland” and suggested that family separation discouraged people from attempting to cross the border although even that didn’t stop the surge of people fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.
“The problem is you have 10 times more people coming up with their families. It’s like Disneyland now,” Trump said in a recent interview with Fox News. “You know, before, you’d get separated, so people would say, ‘Let’s not go up.'”
In March, Federal authorities apprehended the largest number of families attempting to cross the border since 2012, when Customs and Border Protection first started keeping track. 53,000 families were stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border in March.