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Blackburn introduces bill to require migrant DNA testing at border

Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnHillicon Valley: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base MORE (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday led other GOP lawmakers in introducing legislation seeking to mandate DNA testing for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, which she argued would help end child trafficking. 

Blackburn, along with Republican Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans Overnight Defense: Capitol security bill includes 1M to reimburse National Guard | Turner to lead House push against military sexual assault | Pentagon drops mask mandate GOP Rep. Turner to lead House push to address military sexual assault MORE (Iowa), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate hears from Biden's high-profile judicial nominees for first time Senate Democrats take aim at 'true lender' interest rate rule Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign MORE (N.C.) and Mike RoundsMike RoundsGOP split on counteroffer to Biden's spending Democrats, GOP agree on one thing: They're skeptical of a deal Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban MORE (S.D.), unveiled the bill, called the End Child Trafficking Now Act, in a press release, along with a companion bill in the House by Rep. Lance GoodenLance GoodenLoyalty trumps policy in Stefanik's rise, Cheney's fall GOP frustration with Liz Cheney 'at a boiling point' Blackburn introduces bill to require migrant DNA testing at border MORE (R-Texas). 

Blackburn said the legislation was prompted by her visit over the weekend to the southern border, where she said she witnessed “firsthand” the impacts of the recent surge in migrants, particularly unaccompanied minors. 

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“Adults attempting to slip across our borders under the guise of being a parent or relative to a minor must be DNA tested to prove they are related,” Blackburn said in a statement. 

The Tennessee senator previously introduced legislation calling for DNA testing of migrants in 2019, though the bill never received a vote. 

Now, Blackburn hopes the recent attention to the influx in migrants will attract support for the legislation. 

“Drug cartels and gangs are using children to falsely present themselves as family units and seek asylum at our Southern Border,” she argued Wednesday. “These unaccompanied minors are especially vulnerable to trafficking and are often forced to perform sex acts.” 

“Making DNA tests mandatory on anyone claiming a family relationship with a minor will send a powerful message that traffickers will be caught and aggressively prosecuted,” she added. 

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In her own statement, Ernst argued that DNA testing will help secure “the wellbeing of these children and the security of our nation,” while Tillis specifically criticized the Biden administration’s response to the migrant surge. 

“The Biden Administration’s response has been severely lacking,” Tillis said in a statement. “This legislation is a commonsense, humane reform to how we determine family relationships at our border and can help prevent innocent children from being abused.” 

According to Wednesday’s press release, the legislation would require the Department of Homeland Security to deport migrant adults if they refuse to submit to a DNA test, as well as mandate a maximum prison sentence of 10 years for adults who lie about family ties or guardianship over a minor. 

The bill also outlines punishments for “child recycling,” or various migrant adults using the same child to attempt to gain entry into the U.S. 

The proposal follows a pilot program introduced by former President TrumpDonald TrumpSunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans Navajo Nation president on Arizona's new voting restrictions: An 'assault' on our rights The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez MORE’s administration in 2019 seeking to test the DNA of migrant families if there was suspicion that an adult and a minor were not actually related. 

The program received sharp criticism from immigration advocates at the time. Jennifer Podkul, senior policy director at Kids in Need of Defense, told The Washington Post in 2019 that legitimate families could be separated as a result of a DNA policy. 

“We have one case of a child who said, ‘That’s my dad,’ but didn’t know he was the stepfather,” she said. “That’s very different from being smuggled by a human trafficker.”