Published: Fri, July 06, 2018

DNA tests ordered to reunite separated migrant families

DNA tests ordered to reunite separated migrant families

Alex Azar, the U.S. health secretary, said yesterday that officials were using DNA taken from cheek swabs of some 3,000 migrant children separated from their families and now under the agency's custody.

Even as the Trump administration implemented its zero tolerance crackdown on immigration - which saw immigrant children split up from their parents and transferred to specifically designated shelters and foster care systems run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement - reports emerged that the government was ill-equipped to undo the logistical nightmare it had set into motion. On Thursday's conference call, Azar said the number is now somewhere under 3,000, because the federal court order covers a wider class of separated children than his agency was originally counting, including hundreds more that were separated before Trump's "zero tolerance" policy officially went into effect.

Azar said HHS is working "overtime" to confirm that the people who purportedly are parents of those children actually are their parents, and is also checking to see if any parents have a background that makes them unsafe to receive a child.

That means the families split up under President Donald Trump are only being reunited if the parent agrees to deportation or if the child was released to another relative in the U.S.

A federal judge in California ordered that all of the children must be returned to their parents by July 26.

He said the new number reflected a more thorough look by HHS at its case files, and over a longer time period, to comply with the court order that families be reunited.

Under the approach, parents and other caregivers apprehended after crossing the border were arrested and jailed, and the government placed their children with HHS.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that in June, there were 18 percent fewer "apprehensions and inadmissibles" along the border compared to the previous month.

"It's deplorable they are using the guise of reuniting children to collect even more sensitive data about very young children", Falcon said.

On Thursday, Azar said that in order to comply with that order the government is now conducting DNA tests to "confirm parentage quickly and accurately".

"Traditionally, when they were separated, the location of that separation was not relevant to HHS' position of caring for the children in our custody". He said 100 kids in HHS custody now are under the age of 5.

HHS has always been charged with caring for unaccompanied minors crossing the border, thousands of children every year.

Azar said the audit was done to make sure the agency was in full compliance with a court order issued after he had given senators a lower number.

The Trump administration is now in the process of reuniting families, in part by using DNA tests to confirm whether they are related.

Activists say that those children are too young to consent to a DNA test.

Only recently, the president had told Republicans in Congress to stop wasting their time on immigration until after November's elections, but now Trump is insisting that Congress "FIX OUR INSANE IMMIGRATION LAWS NOW!" Tell the people "OUT, ' and they must leave, just as they would if they were standing on your front lawn".

Faced with a barrage of criticism, Trump signed an executive order to halt the family separations, but made no specific provisions for those already split apart.

Congress has failed to pass immigration bills this year.

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