Following a recent court order, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is using DNA tests to speed up the process of reuniting immigrant families that have crossed the border. Under the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, 2,300 children have been separated from their families.
Due to mounting political pressure for the government to fix this human rights violation, the Federal District Court of San Diego has set a deadline to reunite families by Tuesday, July 10th.
Alex Azar, the secretary and chief of HHS, stated:
“Yes, we will comply with the court’s deadline, We have a plan in place to get this job done while maintaining the safety of the children in our care.”
Immigration officials are up against great social backlash, including multiple public demonstrations, lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union, and countless nationwide protests.
Many citizens were at their wit’s end when word broke that toddlers and children were being forced to represent themselves in court for immigration cases. These helpless and confused children have been through immense amounts of trauma, and it is widely agreed that the least the U.S. can do is let them be with their parents.
Records and files of multiple immigrants who have recently crossed the border have been destroyed or lost within the system. In an anonymous interview with the New York Times, Customs officials explained that many ICE agents deleted “family identification numbers.” These ID numbers connected parents to their children. The “lost” data has made the process of reuniting children extremely difficult.
Another roadblock in the process has been the involvement of multiple agencies. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Department of Homeland Security have all been involved in the process of detaining and separating families.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services have never before shared such an abundance of records and data, further complicating the process. Due to the limited window of time and ample pressure, officials have now turned to DNA testing to reunite families and expedite the process.
Azar stated during an interview with Fox News:
“We have to confirm that these are in fact their parents and we have to confirm they’re appropriate people to be having custody of these children. We’re doing DNA testing on everybody who claims to be a parent of one of our children to confirm that.”
Many are blaming the need for DNA testing in this process on the faulty organization and actions of the Trump Administration.
Featured Image via Flickr/Michael Thielen