HHS: 5 adults claiming to be parents of detained children ruled out by DNA tests

The Trump administration said it used DNA screenings to identify and rule out five adults who claimed to be parents of children being held at the southern border.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said Tuesday that the agency found two adults through DNA swabbing who thought they were biological parents and were not.

Another three adults admitted they weren’t parents before the DNA swab was complete.


An HHS official said those individuals could have been human traffickers and said the results show its screening process is working. The Trump administration is using DNA testing to reunite migrant families previously separated in order to prosecute adults illegally crossing the border.

“If we find out they are not the legal parent, then clearly we are not going to reunite them,” said Chris Meekins, a top HHS official overseeing the reunification process. “Our process may not be as quick as some would like, but there is no question it is protecting children.”  

HHS is scrambling to comply with a court order to reunite children under 5 with families by Tuesday, and all other children by July 26.

Meekins said the Trump administration has reunited a total of 38 children with their parents, and identified a total of 75 out of 102 children in custody as eligible for reunification.

HHS last week said it is using DNA tests to speed up the process. The method will also ensure that children are not handed over to someone falsely claiming to be a parent, officials said.

Personnel with HHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security collect cheek swabs from children and parents and send it to a lab where a DNA contractor will verify the relationship.

Under normal circumstances, HHS would verify relationships using birth certificates or other documentation and use DNA testing as a backup.

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