Main Working Group Title
2020-2022 CERA Working Groups

Working Group Title
Developing Resources for DNA Testing at the Border: BorderDNA Working Group

Description

Family walking down dirt road

Emerging technological advances and political shifts have expanded immigration-related DNA applications beyond relationship tests within a family for visa petitions. Several U.S. government programs involve collection or use of DNA data:

  • family reference DNA sample collection for identification of missing migrants,
  • DNA data collection of from migrant detainees for the federal criminal DNA database, and
  • rapid DNA technologies instated at border points for verification of familial relationship claims.

DNA data is beneficial in immigration processes for demonstrating relatedness in family reunification, investigating human trafficking, identifying fraud, and identifying deceased migrants who die crossing the border. However, these applications bring an array of ethical, legal, and societal questions, including concerns for autonomy of movement, the disparate effects of collection practices on vulnerable populations, potential for abuses of power, and need for protections from unauthorized use of DNA data. For instance, DNA data collected for humanitarian purposes (e.g., missing persons) or to screen for human trafficking also might be used as surveillance or to track migrants that might be a threat to the state. Also, geneticization of the term “family” and stratification of visa petitioners and refugees based on biological interpretations of identity could shift policies towards stigmatization and discrimination. There is a realistic risk that genomic technologies implemented into immigration practices will develop into practices favoring biological relationships over other family and community links.

A truly informed consent process is not feasible in the outlined scenarios. If the risk of not participating is deportation, family separation, or an inability to identify a deceased family member, then the imbalance of power precludes free, informed consent. The BorderDNA team recognized the need for resources to inform migrant families of their rights, options (where they might have them), and descriptions of the policies and procedures they are facing. Providing migrant families information on the different DNA testing or collection processes is one step towards providing awareness and agency to the families and individuals undergoing DNA testing at the border. Operational DNA collectors (e.g., border agents, social workers, immigration attorneys) also could benefit from guidance on the nuances of using genetic information for testing for family relationships and how DNA data is shared (and protected) among agencies and across borders.

Resources developed by the working group include information on family reference DNA sample collection for transnational identification of missing migrants, DNA data collection from migrant detainees for the federal criminal DNA database, and rapid DNA technologies instated at border points for verification of familial relationship claims. The team developed and field tested these resources as printable materials, web-based information, and animated videos in collaboration with experts in law enforcement, humanitarian groups working with migrants, federal agencies, human rights advocates, consulates, forensic DNA experts, and immigration. Resources intended for the public are also available for limited English proficiency families.

Title
Infographic describing the process for DNA collection from migrant detainees for CODIS

Description

Published December 2021
This infographic for journalists interested in forensic DNA applications describes the process for DNA collection from migrant detainees for CODIS. This version updates ARCHIVED - Infographic comparing the use of DNA for family verifications to the DNA collection for CODIS.

Title
Video trailer (in English) on the process for family reference sample provision for missing migrant investigations

Description

Published January 2022
This English-language video trailer for migrant advocates and migrant families describes the process for family reference sample provision for missing migrant investigations.

Title
Video (in English) on the process for family reference sample provision for missing migrant investigations

Description

Published December 2021
This English-language video for migrant advocates and migrant families describes the process for family reference sample provision for missing migrant investigations.
 

Title
Video trailer (in English) on the process for DNA collection from migrant detainees for CODIS

Description

Published February 2022
This English-language video trailer for migrant advocates and migrant families describes the process for DNA collection from migrant detainees for CODIS.

Title
Video trailer (in English) on the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims

Description

Published February 2022 
This English-language video trailer for migrant advocates and migrant families describes the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims.

Title
Infographic comparing DNA testing across applications

Description

Published May 2022
This interactive infographic for geneticists and journalists interested in genetic testing outlines the differences between genetic data uses in various contexts. Open in Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Title
Video (in English) on DNA collection from migrant detainees for CODIS

Description

Published December 2021
This English-language video for migrant advocates and migrant families describes the process for DNA collection from migrant detainees for CODIS.

Title
Video (in English) on DNA use at the border to verify family relationship claims

Description

Published December 2021
This English-language video for migrant advocates and migrant families describes the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims. 

Title
Infographic comparing the use of DNA for family verifications to the DNA collection for CODIS

Description

Published May 2022
This infographic for immigration experts and journalists interested in forensic DNA applications compares the use of DNA for family verifications to the DNA collection for CODIS

Title
One-page policy brief summarizing the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims

Description

Published May 2022
This one-page policy brief for migrant advocates summarizes the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims.

Title
Pamphlet (in English) describing the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims

Description

Published May 2022
This English-language pamphlet for migrant families and migrant advocates describes the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims.

Title
Infographic comparing DNA technologies used to verify family relationship claims

Description

Published May 2022
This infographic for immigration experts and journalists interested in forensic DNA applications compares use of rapid DNA technologies to laboratory facilities for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims.

Title
Pamphlet (in Spanish) describing the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims

Description

Published May 2022
This Spanish-language pamphlet for migrant families and migrant advocates describes the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims.

Title
Infographic describing the process for DNA collection from migrant detainees for CODIS

Description

Published March 2021
This infographic for immigration experts and journalists interested in forensic DNA applications was published March 2021 and updated in December 2021 (See UPDATED - Infographic comparing the use of DNA for family verifications to the DNA collection for CODIS on this page). It compares the use of DNA to verify family relationship claims to the DNA collection for CODIS.
 

Title
Infographic comparing the use of DNA for family verifications to the DNA collection for CODIS (2nd version)

Description

Published January 22
This infographic for immigration experts and journalists interested in forensic DNA applications compares the use of DNA to verify family relationship claims to the DNA collection for CODIS. Please find the updated version on the products tab.

Title
One-page policy brief summarizing the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims (2nd version)

Description

Published January 2022
This policy brief for migrant advocates summarizes the process for DNA testing at the border for the purposes of verifying family relationship claims. Please find the updated version on the products tab.

Title
Infographic comparing the use of DNA for family verifications to the DNA collection for CODIS (1st version)

Description

Published March 2021
This infographic for immigration experts and journalists interested in forensic DNA applications compares the use of DNA to verify family relationship claims to the DNA collection for CODIS. Please find the updated version on the products tab.

Title
One-page policy brief summarizing the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims (1st version)

Description

Published March 2021
This policy brief for migrant advocates summarizes the process for DNA testing at the border for the purposes of verifying family relationship claims. Please find the updated version on the products tab.

Title
Pamphlet (in English) describing the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims (1st version)

Description

Published January 2022
This English-language pamphlet for migrant families and migrant advocates describes the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims. Please find the updated version on the products tab.

Title
Pamphlet (in Spanish) describing the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims (1st version)

Description

Published January 2022
This Spanish-language pamphlet for migrant families and migrant advocates describes the process for DNA testing at the border to verify family relationship claims. Please find the updated version on the products tab.