Biden Administration Jettisons DNA Testing of Families at Border
FAIR Take | July 2023
At the end of May, the Biden Administration made a conscious decision not to renew a Trump-era pilot program that conducts rapid DNA testing of illegal aliens crossing the border. The program was implemented in 2019 to keep illegal aliens from trafficking children by falsely claiming a family relationship. Under the program, cheek swabs were used to collect DNA material. That material was typically analyzed within 90 minutes to determine whether there was a parent-child relationship.
The growing number of fake family units arriving at the U.S. border became a serious problem during the Obama and Trump Administrations, due in part to a 2015 federal court ruling in the Flores litigation. In that ruling, the district court held that Customs and Border Protection could only detain minors, regardless of whether they are accompanied by a parent or guardian, for a maximum of 20 days. This decision, affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016, led to the widespread release of minors with parents or guardians who accompanied them.
Once the rest of the world realized that migrating to the U.S. as a family almost certainly ensured release, families headed toward the U.S.-Mexico border in droves. Between 2015 and 2019, the number of family units apprehended at the southern border by the Border Patrol skyrocketed from 39,900 to 473,700. Among these were cartel members and criminal rings, who smuggled and trafficked children by posing as families. Once the DNA pilot testing started in 2019, the results showed that 30 percent of illegal aliens arriving with children they claimed as theirs were, in fact, not related to the children (nor were they stepparents or adoptive parents).
Despite the success of the program in identifying smugglers and traffickers, the Biden Administration has made the inexplicable decision to terminate it. The only reason that has been made available to date is that the government’s contract with the DNA testing company expired and the Biden Administration simply chose not to renew it. But open-borders groups have long complained about the DNA tests, claiming that they are “invasive” and violate the “privacy rights” of illegal aliens. Some have even claimed that human trafficking is not a serious enough problem to justify the cheek swabs and argued that biology does not alone determine family relationships.
To remedy the situation, Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas has reintroduced legislation known as the Biometric Verification for Entry and Reconfirming Identification with Forensics (B-VERIFY) Act. The bill requires that biometric data, including DNA, be collected by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from all aliens apprehended by the three immigration agencies within DHS. The bill would also require the agencies to conduct more stringent background checks on individuals with whom unaccompanied alien children (UACs) are to be placed. Just as important, the B-VERIFY Act requires the collection of biometric data before the administering of any immigration benefit and permanently bars a parent or guardian who knowingly sends a child to cross the border illegally from adjusting their immigration status. The goal of the legislation is to help secure the border, discourage asylum fraud driven by mass illegal migration, and deter human trafficking.
In a statement, Rep. Gooden pointed out that, “[v]iolent cartels are using children as pawns in their illicit border operations while convicted criminals infiltrate our borders unopposed. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration remains asleep at the wheel. It is imperative Congress arm our law enforcement with the resources they need to protect our national security and secure our borders from the horror of human trafficking.”
The B-VERIFY Act is similar in spirit and intent to the “End Child Trafficking Now Act,” introduced in the Senate by Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and by Rep. Gooden in the House. That bill would require DHS to deport illegal alien adults who refuse to submit to a DNA test, mandate a maximum 10-year prison sentence to those claiming fabricated family ties to a minor, and criminalize “child recycling” (the use of one child as a get-into-the-U.S.-free card repeatedly by many non-related illegal aliens).
Both the use of biometric data and the goal of the legislation (to deter child trafficking) should not be controversial. Airports utilize biometrics to rapidly check the identities of travelers during the immigration process, and many countries – including the United Kingdom and those in the European Union – use these objective measurements of physical characteristics. That is why FAIR wholeheartedly supports legislation calling for the biometric testing at the border and strongly encourages the Biden Administration to reinstate the previous Administration’s common-sense policies in this regard. A failure to do so will undoubtedly lead to more cases of child abuse and even child sexual assault as ruthless human smugglers receive the message that bringing a child will once again increase an illegal border crosser’s chance to enter the U.S., regardless of that child’s safety or best interests.
Commenting on the B-VERIFY Act, FAIR President Dan Stein said, “The Biden Administration’s abandonment of immigration enforcement has created an unprecedented crisis at our southern border. Congressman Gooden’s B-VERIFY Act will bring some measure of order by empowering our border agents to collect the biometric data of illegal aliens for the purposes of immigration enforcement – giving our immigration officials the tools they need to combat illegal immigration and human trafficking. FAIR is proud to support this bill and applauds Congressman Gooden for working to secure our borders and protect children from human trafficking.”