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Judge: ICE Officers Should Do DNA Tests on Migrant Children

Judge: ICE Officers Should Do DNA Tests on Migrant Children
protestors hold a sign reading families belong together

Friday, 16 August 2019 07:00 PM

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials should conduct DNA tests before deciding to separate migrant children from adults who claim to be their parents, a federal judge said.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw made the statement at a hearing on the family-separation issue in San Diego Friday, where civil rights lawyers complained hundreds of migrant families were improperly separated at the U.S. border with Mexico.

The judge didn’t hand down any orders, or issue any rulings, but he questioned why border officials would split up families because they couldn’t verify children were with their real parents.

“To the extent that parentage cannot be readily determined, wouldn’t the easy answer be to provide for DNA-swab testing?” Sabraw asked a government lawyer. Scott Stewart, the lawyer, replied that in some cases such testing is done.

An injunction issued last year is at the center of the family-separation fight between the ACLU and the government. The judge barred family separations except in cases where the parents had criminal records, but he let the government determine when that made a parent unfit.

The ACLU says border officials are applying the standard too broadly, separating children from parents who committed minor offenses or had decades-old violations. The officials often don’t provide sufficient details explaining each decision, the ACLU said.

Sabraw appeared to side with the ACLU, at least in part. He said kids shouldn’t be separated from their parents just because of a past criminal violation. Separations should be done if it’s clear a parent poses a danger to the child, such as if the parent had been found to have sexually assaulted a child, the judge said.

“If we have a fundamental right to this (parent-child) relationship, it should not be interrupted absent some evidence-based determination of risk,” Sabraw said. “The government should be looking behind these convictions in an evidence-based objective manner and making risk assessments.”

Stewart said the government would respond to the judge’s concerns in a written brief.

The hearing followed the Trump administration’s loss of an appeal in a separate immigration case.

The administration had argued in that case that its obligation to detain children in safe and sanitary conditions doesn’t necessarily mean it has to provide the kids with soap, towels, showers, dry clothing or toothbrushes. The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Thursday rejected that, ruling such necessities “are without doubt essential to the children’s safety.”

In the San Diego case, the ACLU complained that more than 900 children, including babies and toddlers, have been separated from their parents in the past year over the “most minor” of infractions, such as traffic violations, committed by their parents.

The government has repeatedly argued that its policy for separating children is based on a proper interpretation of the law, and that protecting the safety of children is a top concern.

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials should conduct DNA tests before deciding to separate migrant children from adults who claim to be their parents, a federal judge said.U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw made the statement at a hearing on the family-separation issue...
ice, dna, tests, migrant, children
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2019-00-16
Friday, 16 August 2019 07:00 PM
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