In the latest sign of the utter chaos generated by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy towards asylum seekers, CNN has reported that the federal government is now resorting to DNA testing to help reunite migrant children who have been separated from their parents at the border.
Using DNA tests as part of the reunification process should raise some alarm bells for several reasons. For one, some children may not be biologically related to their parents and other family members and—as The Intercept and others have noted—there are serious privacy and logistical concerns when it comes to the collection of DNA, especially by federal agencies that haven’t exactly shown that they care about the well-being of migrants. (Raise your hand if you trust the federal government to wisely and judiciously handle a database of immigrants’ DNA. Anyone?)
As RAICES communications director Jennifer Falcon put it to USA Today
when DNA testing was first raised as a way to reunite families, “Potentially, we’re trying to solve one civil rights violation with another civil rights violation.”
CNN interviewed one unnamed federal official, who had this to say in response to the concerns raised by immigrant rights advocates: “The safety and security is paramount and that 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.”
There are reportedly other ways other than DNA testing to match children with their families, such as relying on information and documents that the government has already obtained. Still, even with that strategy, the stories that have surfaced about parents frantically attempting to reunite with their children have made painfully clear the horrifying ineptitude (not to mention downright cruelty) of the agencies. Currently, there is no easy process to bring families back together.
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All of which brings us back to an obvious lesson that’s worth repeating: Maybe just don’t separate children from their families to begin with.