DNA tests have been ordered for 3,000 immigrant children separated from families at the US-Mexico border.
According to BBC News, the order was issued as efforts to reunite immigrant families gain momentum. The families were separated after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border and being arrested under the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy.
According to US Health Secretary, Alex Azar, the tests are required because of a court deadline to reunite families. Azar claims the agency's normal methods of vetting are too slow. He said that about 100 of the separated children were below the age of five.
US judge bars separation of immigrants from children, orders families reunited
Azar's agency, Health and Human Services, supervises migrant detention centres.
Activists have begun to fear that data derived from DNA tests might be exploited by the government for other purposes. They claim that the data could potentially be used to track migrants' movements and whereabouts. According to critics, the children are also minors and therefore too young to consent to a DNA test.
A court order has bound the agency to reunite children who are aged four or less by July 10. Children who are aged five to 17 are to be reunited by July 26.
According to Azar, the agency's traditional method of employing birth records to match parents to their children is time-consuming. He added that normal vetting processes may need truncating if the July 10 deadline is to be met.
Azar said that "under 3,000" immigrant minors have been reported as separated from their families. He added that some children may have been separated before or after crossing in to the US. Currently, 11,800 minors are under the care of the health department.
Calls to abolish US immigration agency over border 'abuses'
CBS News reported on Thursday that a federal policy loophole could allow two migrant detention centres to escape welfare inspections. The centres--the Texan "Tent City" in Tornillo and a shelter in Homestead, Florida--may evade the inspections required of all other shelters. The detention centres are located on federal land and are thus not subject to supervision by local governments, reports CBS News.
Last weekend and on the Fourth of July holiday, protesters marched against Trump's immigration policies--with the family separation policy centred in the protests.
On July 4, A US immigrant woman from Democratic Republic of Congo was arrested for attempting to scale the Statue of Liberty. The woman has been charged with multiple offences, including trespassing.
Jennifer Falcon from the immigration advocacy group Raices tweeted earlier that the decision was "further proof the administration has no idea how to reunite families".
This article originally appeared on BBC News.
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