Things That Matter

Here’s Why Advocates Are Concerned About The US Using DNA To Reunite Families Separated At The Border

The government is facing strict deadlines to reunite families that have been separated at the border. On June 27, Federal Judge Dana M. Sabraw in San Diego ordered that all families had to be reunited by July 27 if they were older than 5. Children younger than that were supposed to be reunited with their families by July 10. The Trump administration already failed with the younger children, only reunite four children with their families by the deadline. So how exactly do they plan to reunite the rest of the separated families? The use of DNA.

The Trump Administration wants to test the DNA of children and parents in order to make sure that kids are going to the right families.

“The safety and security is paramount, and it is not uncommon for children to be trafficked or smuggled by those claiming to be parents,” a federal official said to CNN. “To our knowledge, this is a cheek swab and is being done to expedite parental verification and ensuring reunification with verified parents due to child welfare concerns.”

However, some say getting the DNA of undocumented immigrants is unethical for a variety of reasons.

Some dispute the need and urgency of gathering DNA in this type of way. While officials say it’s to prevent human trafficking, others fear it’s just another way for the government to store data on undocumented immigrants for other uses. For example, what will be done with the DNA that is gathered, will it be stored or used for another use of data information, and will this data affect the chances of undocumented immigrants trying to become U.S. citizens in the future?

“This is a further demonstration of administration’s incompetence and admission of guilt. This further drives home the point we’ve been saying: They never registered parents and children properly,” RAICES communications director Jennifer K. Falcon said to CNN.

The main concern is how officials plan to get consent about acquiring DNA from a child if the parent cannot give permission.

Usually, parents need to give permission if and when they allow their child’s DNA to be tested. However, in this case, the DNA is being used to prove parental relations so no one is giving consent to the DNA collection of these minors.

We have to confirm that these are in fact their parents and we have to confirm they’re appropriate people to be having custody of these children,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, according to New York magazine. “We’re doing DNA testing on everybody who claims to be a parent of one of our children to confirm that.”

Some undocumented immigrants allege that other types of blood testing has already occurred.

“I was told (by my clients) that ‘men in blue military uniforms’ were performing and ordering the blood and saliva tests,” Sophia Gregg, an immigration lawyer at Legal Aid Justice, told CNN.

Advocates for the migrants are concerned that the collection of the DNA will lead to broad surveillance of the people. According to CNN, the use of DNA to reunite families is unprecedented in this situation and advocates do not support the decision.


READ: Trump Administration Claims Babies Separated From Families Are Being Held In ‘Tender Age’ Shelters

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Supreme Court Hearing Arguments For DACA, Leaning Towards Elimination

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Supreme Court Hearing Arguments For DACA, Leaning Towards Elimination

JuanSaaa / Twitter

The United States Supreme Court heard over an hour and a half of arguments Tuesday on whether or not the Trump administration can end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The case has been brewing since the Trump administration first announced plans to end the Obama-era program in 2017. As of early reporting, it seems the justices are pretty closely split with the conservative members of the court seemingly leaning towards ending the program.

The Supreme Court heard more than an hour and a half of oral arguments in favor and against the preservation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The Obama-era program gave deportation relief, driver’s licenses, work permits, and access to student loans for hundreds of thousands of young people in the U.S. Despite Trump consistently telling the media that the issue of DACA will be handled with heart, the president’s former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced the end of the program in 2017.

According to The New York Times, Trump moved to end the program because of “the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system.” Sessions stated that the program had “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”

Plaintiffs and attorneys for DACA left the Supreme Court today and chanted with thousands of protesters demanding the preservation of the program.

“Home is here! Home is here,” the crowd can be heard chanting as the plaintiffs all left the Supreme Court. The arguments helped determine where certain justices fall on the issue of preserving DACA and protecting hundreds of thousands of young people from being deported from the only home they know.

NBC News reports that the nine justices are closely divided on the issue with all of the conservative justices seemingly leaning against it. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh asking questions that seemed to confirm their alignment with the Trump administration’s decision. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer appear to be in favor of preserving the program. The deciding vote might come from Justice John Roberts, who in the court’s last term ruled against the Trump administration’s wish to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

A majority of Americans support the DACA program and the recipients who benefit from it.

Credit: @selenagomez / Twitter

Selena Gomez recently debuted a new docu-series highlighting the lives of undocumented people in the U.S. The show has given new perspective to the immigration debate that has been raging in the U.S. for decades.

More than 60 percent of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center also favor a pathway for citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. That poll found that 48 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

All eyes are on the Supreme Court as more than 600,000 DACA recipients wait to know their fate.

With such overwhelming support, it would seem that passing legislation to protect DACA recipients would be easy. However, Democratic Representation Lucille Roybal-Allard of California introduced a bill in March of this year called The American Dream and Promise Act. The bill would enshrine the protections offered by DACA into law. The bill passed the House of Representatives on June 4 and is awaiting a vote from the Senate. However, the Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, has refused to take a vast array of bills up for a vote in an increasingly partisan pushback.

DACA and the lives of undocumented people in the U.S. are being evaluated at the highest court of the land today.

Credit: @JuanSaaa / Twitter

Americans overwhelmingly support the program. The president has used this vulnerable community as a political pawn. At one point, the president was willing to offer DACA protections in exchange for border wall funding.

The nation is watching the Supreme Court closely as they are waiting to hear the fate of hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S.

Students in Los Angeles joined in with major walkouts to demonstrate in favor of DACA and their peers benefitting from the program. We are all waiting to hear how the Supreme Court rules on this issue.

Check back with mitú as this story develops.

READ: Luis Cortes Is The 31-Year-Old Dreamer Attorney Fighting To Save DACA In The Supreme Court Case

Trump Administration Hikes Up DACA Renewal Fee To Support U.S. Immigration And Customs Enforcement

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Trump Administration Hikes Up DACA Renewal Fee To Support U.S. Immigration And Customs Enforcement

Juan Escalante @JuanSaaa / Twitter

A new proposal brought forth by immigration officials might hike up the cost of immigrants entering the United States as children. According to a New York Times report, the Trump administration proposal would increase fees for applicants by more than 60 percent and handover more than $200 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On Friday, the Trump administration proposed increasing a “range of fees” tacked onto applications for those seeking legal immigration and citizenship.

If it is sent into motion, the proposal would increase citizenship fees by more than 60 percent. Under the new plan, fees for applicants would skyrocket from $725  to $1,170. The proposal would also allow the government to charge asylum seekers $50 for applications and $490 for work permits. Such a rule would make the United States one out of four countries in the world to force asylum seekers to pay for applications. Australia, Fiji and Iran all charge for asylum protection. 

If instituted, the proposal would be yet another roadblock implemented by the Trump administration to restrict immigration through legal means.

Over the past few months, immigrants and immigration advocates have seen similar attempts at hacking through the rights of immigrants before. Recently the Trump administration issued a series of policies that work to withhold permanent residency to immigrants in the United States have been deemed incapable of financially supporting themselves. They have also blocked entry to immigrants applying for visas on the basis of health insurance status. On October 4, 2019, Trump published a Presidential Proclamation that prevents entry to visa applicants are unable to provide proof of their ability to obtain health insurance within 30 days of entering the United States. 

“Healthcare providers and taxpayers bear substantial costs in paying for medical expenses incurred by people who lack health insurance or the ability to pay for their healthcare.  Hospitals and other providers often administer care to the uninsured without any hope of receiving reimbursement from them,” the proclamation read. “The costs associated with this care are passed on to the American people in the form of higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher fees for medical services.  In total, uncompensated care costs — the overall measure of unreimbursed services that hospitals give their patients — have exceeded $35 billion in each of the last 10 years.”

 Ur Jaddou, former chief counsel at USCIS under the Obama administration called the new policy, “one more way under the administration that they are making legal immigration unattainable.”

“Currently, USCIS is conducting its biennial fee review, as required under the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, to study the agency’s revenue, costs and needs,” a spokesperson for USCIS told BuzzFeed News. “As always, USCIS will publicly communicate information on its fee review through a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in the federal register, should a decision be made to adjust its fees. No determination has yet been made.”

Immigration advocates on social media have been quick to slam the proposal as unfair. 

“The proposal to get rid of fee waivers is a whole statement and stand against the poor. From the public charge stuff to this. Worse thing too is this is how people actually feel,” film director Angy Rivera wrote in a thread that lambasted the policy. “The Department of Homeland Security’s plan will be open to public comment for 30 days starting Nov. 14. Make sure to flood them!”

Other users who quick to underline the significance of taking the funds from these applicants and transfer them to  Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration plans to “transfer money raised through the new proposed fee schedule to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency under DHS that carries out deportations, workplace investigations and other immigration enforcement actions. The money would be used to root out any potential fraud in future applications for citizenship, green cards, asylum and other immigration benefits.” 

“At this point I feel like they are just putting numbers in hat, and tossing it around. This is money we use to live and maintain our families, minimum wage ass job won’t cover this. This is just business to make money, y’all taking advantage of us,” Cristal Ruiz Rodriguez wrote in a tweet.

There’s no doubt that the Trump administration’s latest attack on immigrants is a wealth tax.

The Trump administration’s new policy would not be applicable to immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and asking for asylum. 

Melissa Rodgers is the director of programs for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and told the Washington Street Journal that the proposed fees would be unaffordable for those who could have had a chance at citizenship.

“This is a wealth tax on becoming a U.S. citizen,” Rodgers said in a statement. “It’s part and parcel of the assault on the naturalization process.”