How rapid DNA testing at the US-Mexico border will actually work

WIRED MAGAZINE - May 2, 2019 The Department of Homeland Security will soon begin piloting a DNA testing program at the US-Mexico border intended to expose immigrants suspected of posing as families. The testing will be conducted at two undisclosed locations over the course of several days. It will employ a new form of genetic testing, known as Rapid DNA technology, that makes it possible to process a DNA sample and produce results in about 90 minutes. Here’s how the program will work: If CBP agents get the sense that something is amiss—such as when documents are lacking or can’t be verified, or a person appears to be sponsoring many family units—they’ll flag the family to ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations. That could happen either at a legal port of entry or at the border if the family is apprehended crossing illegally. Civil rights advocates worry that apid rDNA testing technology is being politically weaponized to intimidate and deter migrants fleeing violence and poverty from seeking a better life. "DNA testing of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers is coercive, whether voluntary or otherwise,” says Erika Andiola, chief of advocacy for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. “Collecting biometric information of children brings kids into our state surveillance dragnet at an early age, making it impossible for them to enjoy a life truly free from state scrutiny.”

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