The Washington Examiner reports the federal government is utilizing a DNA testing system that would help Border Patrol Agents quickly check whether those crossing the border as a family are in fact related. Agents now rely on documents the individuals carry and interrogation to verify familial relationships. But workload pressures from the huge increase in family asylum seekers make this already problematic method unworkable.
The FBI last year deployed an automated system called ANDE that nonscientists can use to test DNA collected from a mouth swab. The system identifies a subject’s DNA within ninety minutes. Officials can then swab others to determine familial relationships. The FBI used ANDE to identify human remains found after last year’s Northern California wildfires.
The Department of Homeland Security is now examining the system for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) use. Agents often confront illegal aliens with falsified documents and must use other methods to determine the person’s real identity. This is the same challenge Border Patrol Agents face every day.
Speaking in Texas last week Derek Benner, deputy director of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, said “One of the things that we've seen a huge increase in and our partners in CBP [Customs and Border Protection] have seen, too, is the use of fraudulent documents…Today when we're confronted with family units — I actually call them unverified family units because it's difficult to know but for the expertise of CBP officers and Border Patrol agents, who are able to question or interrogate that family situation based on the evidence that they have on their person and statements that they're able to get from the adults — they do the best they can, and then absent any other information their claim goes as is."
Annette Mattern, a spokeswoman for ANDE, told the Washington Examiner, “Identifying an individual at the border today probably requires an officer to say, ‘I don’t know if this is their kid or not their kid. DNA doesn’t have to make those judgments. It’s just science. But today, my understanding is there is no DNA [rapid testing] that is being done at the port [of entry].”
Read more in the Washington Examiner.
Updated: Thu, Apr 18th 2019 @ 2:10pm EDT