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Rapid DNA tests could help ICE verify 'family units' crossing border illegally

'Today when we're confronted with family units — I actually call them unverified family units'

Mario Tama/Getty Images

The use of a rapid DNA testing system could help U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials determine whether or not immigrants claiming to be family units are actually related.

The government has adopted the ANDE system that uses a cheek swab and can provide results in less than two hours, the Washington Examiner reported. DNA processing at a lab can take weeks.

The Department of Homeland Security may soon allow ICE agents to use it to confirm familial relationships between adults and children who cross the border together, according to the Examiner.

Last summer, the FBI approved the ANDE system, which can be used by a nonscientist. It was used in October to identify remains found after the Northern California wildfires.

What's the story?

Last month, CBP recorded more than 100,000 immigrant apprehensions in March. Of those, more than 55,000 claimed to be traveling as part of a family unit.

Many present false documents as proof of their relationships, Derek Benner, deputy director of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations arm, said last week during a speech in Texas.

"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," deputy director of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations arm, Derek Benner, said recently during a speech in Texas.

Federal laws preventing families from being separated has contributed to the surge in so-called family units crossing the border.

"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," Benner added.

The flood of immigrants traveling with children has pushed enforcement agencies to their breaking point and forced the Trump administration to expand the practice of catch and release.

How does the ANDE system work?

A cheek swab is placed inside the machine which locks down and scans the sample, according to the Examiner.

"Ninety minutes later we have an identification of that person, then we can swab the relatives and we can determine if they are blood relatives," Annette Mattern, an ANDE spokeswoman told the Washington Examine. "But today, my understanding is there is no DNA that is being done at the port [of entry]."

It stores the DNA information which can be cross-referenced with an external database.

What else?

There has been no announcement that DHS has authorized the use of ANDE by ICE or other border officials.

One last thing…
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