May 29 (UPI) -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement put out a call seeking help implementing a rapid DNA test for migrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border to verify familial relationships.
The agency asked for a contractor to assist in its efforts to carry out the tests at seven locations along the southern border. ICE wants the tests to be completed within 90 minutes or less.
The Department of Homeland Security said it intends to use testing to cut down on what it describes as "an increase in fraudulent family relationship claims."
"The fraud scheme involves adult aliens utilizing unrelated minors to pose as a family unit in an effort to secure release into the interior of the United States," the department said. "This activity has put a strain on the immigration system and exhausted border security resources."
DHS is calling the planned testing program Operation Double Helix.
Officials said they will require written and voluntary consent from the migrants for the DNA collection and testing. Additionally, no DNA information will be stored by the U.S. government and chemicals within the test machine would destroy the samples.
DHS did not specify the seven locations for the testing, but said the locations may change depending on the influx of migrants in the area. The contract seeks 50,000 tests with the possibility of administering another 50,000 later.
The proposal comes as U.S. border officials warn that the number of people who either present themselves to authorities at legal ports of entry or are detained by Border Patrol agents could reach 1 million by the end of the fiscal year in September. In March, Border Patrol agents apprehended 92,607 people, a 38 percent increase over February 2019 and a nearly threefold increase over the same month in 2018.