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The Trump Administration Will Expand DNA Collection Of Migrants

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

The Trump administration is moving forward with its plan to dramatically expand DNA testing of illegal migrants at the southern border, a move intended to help control the immigration crisis.

Border Patrol agents will soon have the ability to collect DNA samples of migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  announcement Wednesday. DHS had already implemented a pilot program that tested family relations; however, the new, broad program will be able to identify migrants.

The announcement confirms a Justice Department draft regulation BuzzFeed News obtained in August.

DNA testing is intended to prevent fraudulent claims by migrants who attempt to claim to be part of a family unit when they arrive at the southern border. Authorities cannot detain migrant families for longer than 20 days because of U.S. immigration laws, resulting in migrants’ release before their asylum claims can be adjudicated. This practice, which is typically referred to as “catch and release,” has prompted many migrants to bring unrelated children and infants along with them on the dangerous journey to the border.

MEXICO-HONDURAS-US-MIGRATION

Central American migrants moving in a caravan towards the United States, descend from a truck to be taken to a shelter, in the outskirts of Zapotlanejo, Jalisco state, Mexico on Nov. 11, 2018. (Photo by Ulises Ruiz / AFP) (Photo credit should read ULISES RUIZ/AFP/Getty Images)

When DHS rolled out its pilot program, known as Operation Double Helix 1.0, authorities determined that 16 out of 84 families were fraudulent, meaning that they weren’t actually families, according to DHS. Authorities found 79 out of 522 families to be fraudulent in Operation Double Helix 2.0, CNN reported.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) deployed agents to the border in April, for example, to help combat immigration fraud. The HSI teams uncovered 316 fraudulent families within two months, as well as 599 bogus documents, and agents presented 629 different people to the Department of Justice for various criminal violations. (RELATED: Over Half A Million Central Americans Entered Mexico Illegally In First Half Of 2019)

More details about the upcoming program, which is being implemented in conjunction with the Justice Department, are still left to be released. It’s not yet known which migrant groups, if any, would be exempt from DNA testing or whether children will be excluded.

While the new DNA testing initiative could prevent immigration fraud at a much larger scale, it is likely to face a lawsuit by immigrant rights and other progressive groups.

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