Blackburn introduces bill to require migrant DNA testing at border
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (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 Ernst (Iowa), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Mike Rounds (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 Gooden (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.
“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.
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 Trump’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.”
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