U.S. using DNA to reunite children with migrant parents

U.S. using DNA to reunite children with migrant parents

U.S. using DNA to reunite children with migrant parents

The Trump administration is asking a federal judge for an extension of the deadline set to reunify all of the migrant parents who were separated from their children at the U.S. -Mexico border.

USA officials have resorted to DNA testing on up to 3,000 detained children who remain separated from their migrant parents, a top official said Thursday as President Donald Trump's administration struggles to rapidly reunite families at the center of a border crisis.

He said the DNA testing was necessary to quickly reunite the children, because the agency's traditional method of using birth records would take too long.

But reunited families may well remain in the custody of immigration authorities.

In a series of tweets, Trump demanded lawmakers "pass smart, fast and reasonable Immigration Laws" now, after the House of Representatives last month rejected a broad immigration bill that had his support.

More than 2,300 migrant children have been separated from their parents since early May under the Trump administration's controversial policy, which seeks to criminally prosecute anyone crossing the border illegally. Of those, about 100 are under five years old.

The U.S. Department of Justice asked the U.S. District Court in San Diego to clarify if it would be breaching the court's order if families were reunited after the deadline due to delays in confirming parentage. That order had been issued after his Senate testimony.

Dozens of HHS personnel have spent nights and the weekend manually reviewing the files of the 11,800 children in its care, looking for indication of separation in the records. Usually, the agency places kids with a US relative or foster family while their immigration cases are decided.

Officials said about 40 parents of the 101 children under age 5 are in federal immigration custody, while another nine are in U.S. Marshal's custody, apparently for criminal proceedings. Eighty percent are teenagers, mostly males who entered the United States on their own.

Mr Azar said that in order to comply with the deadline, normal vetting processes may need to be abandoned. A court hearing on the administration's efforts and plans is scheduled for tomorrow.

Before the US reunites a child with a parent, the government must make sure that children will be safe and determine whether a parent is fit, Jonathan White, deputy director for children's programs at the department's Office of Refugee Resettlement, said in a court filing.

The government says it has 16 children under age 5 in its custody who it has not beeen able to link to an adult.

An ACLU attorney, Lee Gelernt, said organizations would jump at the chance to help connect the parents with the children.

She also questioned how babies and other young children can consent to a DNA cheek swab. According to HHS, it's because the number of immigrant children in the agency's care is always in flux - and because they are working with other agencies to cross-check the numbers they have. Advocates said the practice has traumatized families.

"This is potentially extremely harmful in aggregating a database of DNA that people are somehow directed to provide in order to simply see their children", said Jonathan Ryan, executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, a Texas nonprofit.

The president said he took the drastic measure to secure the border.

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