DNA testing was used at the border for just a few days and it’s already proving to be one of our law enforcement officers’ most powerful weapons against child trafficking and the abuse of our immigration laws.
On May 1, the Department of Homeland Security announced the very first pilot program to use a new form of rapid DNA testing in order to verify whether adults apprehended crossing our border are really part of a “family unit.”
Despite repeated warnings and mounting evidence that human traffickers were claiming unrelated children as their own, the announcement met with immediate backlash from open-borders groups such as the ACLU. At the time, I was compelled to author an article defending the program, knowing how many children it could save from the horrors of exploitation by coyotes and the transnational sex trade.
The new DNA tests, which produce results in 90 minutes and are destroyed afterward to protect personal privacy, went into the field despite the objections. They were used only for a few days and only at a select few sections of the border, but that’s all it took for the program to show its worth.
Almost immediately after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents began using the simple cheek-swab test, it began to make their jobs easier. A DHS spokesperson told reporters that some migrant adults admitted they took someone else’s kids with them and lied about being a family before they even submitted their samples.
In cases where agents were suspicious about a “family unit” and brought out the DNA test, almost one in three of those who did submit to DNA testing were confirmed to be fraudsters.
By now, it should be clear that the objections to testing purported family units were utterly disingenuous. Our system affords special treatment to family units, and open-borders advocates have applauded the exploitation of those loopholes as a way of circumventing legal restrictions on immigration.
Because of the 1997 “Flores settlement” and various other policies, detaining children in facilities with adults is heavily restricted, and children generally must be released after 20 days. At the same time, public hysteria over “family separations” has made it nearly impossible to detain illegal immigrants who arrive with kids.
Add our massive and growing immigration court backlog to the mix, and children offer an immediate, guaranteed path into the American interior for those who violate our immigration laws.
The same groups that are trying to stop DNA testing have worked tirelessly to undermine our immigration system using these very loopholes, and they are concerned that technology will soon make that scheme untenable.
Decades of misguided court rulings and political timidity have created perverse incentives for illegal immigrants to bring children with them on the perilous journey to illegally enter the United States.
The danger in which these children are placed is entirely the result of our broken immigration system. In the worst cases, kids are being “recycled” again and again, forced to make the arduous trek through the desert with adults seeking to exploit them for an easy ticket into America.
The threat to our immigration system itself is every bit as serious. Family units, as coyotes and their liberal enablers in the U.S. have learned, are much more difficult for our law enforcement professionals to handle than the single adults who used to make up the vast majority of illegal immigrants. The unprecedented explosion in apprehensions of “family units” – many of them now clearly exposed as fake – has stretched our border security resources to the breaking point.
DNA testing is a simple, unobtrusive, and inexpensive tool that makes it more difficult for criminals to exploit vulnerable children, removing a major incentive for human traffickers. We ought to implement it across the entire border, and do so as quickly as possible. In an area of public policy fraught with controversy and polarization, this should be a rare no-brainer.
Jan Brewer is a former governor of Arizona.