Department of Homeland Security (Varick Street Federal...

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DNA tests have been ordered by United States officials in an effort to reunite families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. “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 told CNN.

As previously reported, children four and under are to be reunited with their families by July 10 and children five to 17 by July 26 per a recent court order. U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar stated that the DNA tests are needed in order to meet that deadline, adding that the agency’s usual birth record matching methods are too slow.

“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,” Azar told Fox News on Thursday. “We’re doing DNA testing on everybody who claims to be a parent of one of our children to confirm that.”

Immigration activists have expressed concern, stating that DNA can be manipulated once collected by the government and that the Trump administration failed to accurately track where separated families were headed. Jennifer Falcon of RAICES, an immigration advocacy group, told CNN that “this is a further demonstration of administration’s incompetence and admission of guilt, this further drives home the point we’ve been saying.” She continued, “They never registered parents and children properly.”

Last week, it was reported that children as young as three are being forced to attend their immigration hearings by themselves.

“We were representing a 3-year-old in court recently who had been separated from the parents,” Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, told the Texas Tribune on June 28. “And the child—in the middle of the hearing—started climbing up on the table. It really highlighted the absurdity of what we’re doing with these kids.”

Toczlowski added while parents are typically tried alongside their kids, that hasn’t been the case under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.

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