Human rights advocates and immigrants reject DNA testing to reunite families separated at US border


During 2018, when US president Donald Trump operated a policy under which immigration officers separated families arriving at the border without documentation, there were a number of suggestions for using genetic testing to verify family relationships in the interests of reuniting them. After congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) suggested that companies like the genetic testing service 23andMe could help, the US Department of Health and Humna Services announced it would conduct its own tests. In response, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki offered testing kids, and also suggested it could provide genetic testing services to RAICES Texas, an NGO helping detained families. 

Immigrant advocates quickly objected on the basis that the tests would be a gross violation of human rights: what would the government do with the data? The children involved were too young to give consent. In addition, many immigrants' circumstances make family relationships complicated, and genetic testing can take up to a week to return results. Among immigrants, there is also a general discomfort with the potential for misuse of the DNA information that's gathered: the use of the information to conduct unauthorised research. deny them insurance coverage, or unfairly convict them of crimes. 

RAICES turned down the offer on the basis that accepting would put private information belonging to already-vulnerable communities at risk. RAICES noted that the help it really needed was attorneys and translators to help parents locate and petition for their children. and

Writer: Sara Hossaini; Sara Elizabeth Richards; Sarah Zhang

Publication: KQED; Time; Atlantic

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