The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has said DNA testing will be provided at “no cost to verify parentage.” However, four immigrant women are claiming they have been told to pay for the tests if they want to be meet their children again, according to a report by the Daily Beast.
Three of the women are mothers while the fourth is trying to reunite with her brother who is 3-years-old.
Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, which is sheltering the women, said these women arrived at the U.S. border with not much else but the clothes on their back and they do not have the money to pay for these tests.
Immigration attorney Iliana Holguin, who works for Annunciation house, said some of her clients had to pay $700 to $800 to prove their relationship to an individual as part of their citizenship cases.
“The government wants the parents to foot the bill for the DNA testing when they’re the ones that caused the need for DNA testing,” Holguin said. “It’s incredible.”
It isn’t clear how many immigrants have been told they have to pay for the DNA tests. Garcia said the fees can be waived but migrants have to hear from the ORR on how to specifically apply for these waivers.
“I don’t know if it’s a situation where if you don’t ask about the waivers they don’t tell you,” he said.
In yet another sign of the utter chaos created by the Trump administration’s immigrant family separation policy, multiple news outlets are reporting records on migrants and their children have been lost and the federal government is resorting to DNA testing to reunite parents with children.
Faced with a next to impossible to reach court-imposed deadline, federal authorities, who initially said 2,300 children have been separated from parents since October 2017, have admitted the number is actually closer to 3,700, out of which about 100 children are under the age of 5.
Amidst the chaos to reunite children and parents, it is now also being reported that records linking the families, including “family identification number,” have disappeared and some have even been destroyed, leaving the authorities scrambling to find ways to identify connections between migrant family members, according to two Department of Homeland Security officials.
The effort is further complicated because two federal agencies are involved in sheltering migrants and they did not share records with each other. The HHS now has to conduct an exhaustive manual search of records of 12,000 children, which had been separated by border patrol agents.
Under such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that many people are proposing DNA testing as a tool for reuniting families. The company is offering 5,000 free DNA tests for this purpose and plans to distribute them to NGOs and government agencies.
However, there are quite a few concerns over this. Firstly, it’s not necessary that all children are biologically related to their parents. Also, it may create ethical and legal problems with the government collecting highly sensitive data and leave it open for misuse in the future. RAICES, an immigration advocacy group, has said the data will allow government to conduct surveillance on these children “for the rest of their lives.”
However, federal officials say they are just concerned for the migrants’ well-being.
“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,” said one official, reported CNN.
The Trump administration now has the supremely daunting task of meeting several deadlines. By Friday, officials must make sure every separated parent has some way to talk to their child. By Tuesday, children under 5 must be reunited with their parents and by July 26, all children must be back together with their families.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters