(NEW YORK POST) – The Trump administration has been telling migrant mothers that they must cough up money for DNA tests in order to be reunited with their children, a report says.
At least four women have been given the ultimatum while in federal custody, according to the Daily Beast.
Three of them are mothers who were separated from their small children. The fourth wants to be reunited with her 3-year-old brother.
“None of them have the money [for the tests],” said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, an immigrant shelter in El Paso, Texas, where the women are staying.
“So it’s going to fall back on us to push back on that.”
Garcia told the Daily Beast that when immigrant women come into the US with a kid, Customs and Border Protection agents typically “take away” any and all documents from them proving their biological relationship, and puts them on file.
“[DHS] then says, ‘You’re going to need to provide the documents that CBP took,” Garcia explained.
When the immigrants can’t provide the documents, Garcia said that’s when federal agents order them to take the DNA test.
“The government wants the parents to foot the bill for the DNA testing when they’re the ones that caused the need for DNA testing,” said Iliana Holguin, an immigration attorney in El Paso who works with Annunciation House. “It’s incredible.”
According to Holguin, the Trump administration has made some women fork up more than $500 to prove they are a relative. She said some of her clients have paid between $700 to $800.
In response, the Office of Refugee Resettlement — which handles the housing of children — called the women’s claims false and told the Daily Beast that it “provides DNA testing at no cost to verify parentage.”
Garcia and several others have heard about migrant parents getting the fees waived, but federal officials have yet to inform him on how the process works.
“I don’t know if it’s a situation where if you don’t ask about the waivers they don’t tell you,” Garcia said.
Using DNA tests to verify biological relationships is something that first started under the Obama administration. From 2010 to 2017, immigrants were reportedly responsible for covering the costs, however “successful applicants” were eligible for reimbursement.
If all claimed and tested biological relationships were confirmed by the test results, they’d be allowed to get their money back, according to the Daily Beast.
The Trump administration reportedly scrapped the repayment program, though, in 2017.
Greg Chen, of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, called the new system a “delay tactic” used to make migrant mothers suffer even more.
“[The government is] primarily interested in detaining the children and parents to put pressure on them to accept deportation before they have the opportunity to get a fair hearing on their asylum claims and other claims for relief,” he said. “In a specific case when there’s evidence of fraud DNA testing may be warranted, but it should not be done across the board especially when proof of familial relationship can be demonstrated in other ways.”
Legal experts called on the Trump administration to take responsibility and conduct the DNA tests for immigrants — free of charge.
“It’s my understanding that DNA test results can be quick or slow, depending on whichever you want,” Garcia said. “So why don’t you take the responsibility, ORR, and get this done quickly and get these kids back with their parents. Don’t give me this, ‘There’s too many to do and it’s going to take a while,’ or ‘There’s a big long line,’ because you’re the one who took the kids away in the first place, so fix it.”