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Homeland Security steps up use of biometrics data on border

By Clyde Hughes
Homeland Security steps up use of biometrics data on border
U.S. border patrol agents detain a group just 500 yards north of the Mexican border in Hidalgo, Texas, in January. Homeland Security announced Wednesday that it will use biometrics data more to confirm families crossing the border. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

May 2 (UPI) -- The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday it was increasing the use of biometric data such as DNA testing to crack down on adult migrants posing as "fake families" with unaccompanied children crossing the United States' southern border.

The Trump administration said that the measures are needed to stop alleged child smuggling among the recent spike in Central American immigrants coming to the border asking for asylum.

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Homeland Security officials said the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials would test suspected fraudulent families with the consent of the immigrants. Officials said adults would swab their own cheeks, and then that of their children. They added that the test would be destroyed after the results are known.

The so-called Rapid DNA test takes about 90 minutes, CNN reported.

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"This is part of a larger investigative process," said Derek Benner, deputy director of ICE. "This is not screenings, this is not just random application of this, this is a pilot designed to assess the usefulness of this technology in an investigative process."

In a March speech, former Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen complained that "fake families" were "popping up everywhere" on the border.

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"And children are being used as pawns," Nielsen said. "In fact, we have uncovered 'child recycling rings,' truly, child re-victimization rings, a process by which innocent children are used multiple times to help aliens gain illegal entry. As a nation, we cannot stand for this."

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Customs and Border Protection told NBC News that from Oct. 1 to March 30 it identified more than 2,700 individuals on the southwest border that falsely claimed to be part of a family unit with unaccompanied children.

Immigration advocates, though, have called the DNA "intrusive" and questioned how the information would be used beyond identification.

"This is yet another example of government using generalized security interests to conduct increasingly intrusive measures into the privacy and civil rights of individuals who are seeking asylum at the border," Stephen Kang, a detention attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project, said.

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