23andMe joins immigration fray by donating DNA tests to help parents and children find each other

QIAGEN / Flickr Application laboratory with Rotor Gene Q...
QIAGEN / Flickr

The sounds, stories, and images of families ripped apart caused a rapid shift from Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions’ “no tolerance” immigration enforcement at the U.S.-Mexican border. However, despite the cease and desist of those separations, it’s now pretty clear that no real plan or procedures were ever put into place to ever reunite families impacted by the policy. The existing half-assed process, which the White House now claims could take months, relies heavily on something called an “A file” number.

Adults who are intercepted entering the country illegally receive something called an “A file” number from DHS that designates their legal case. If they are accompanied by their children, the kids receive the same A file number.

If parents are separated from their children, however, the children receive different A file numbers, which can make it more complicated to pair parent and child in the future.

According to a U.S. official, there are A file numbers for the 2,300 separated kids.

Theoretically, after the migrant parents who were separated from their kids have their cases adjudicated, meaning after they are deported, jailed or released, they can use these A file numbers to locate their children or to arrange communication.

Theoretically.

Unsatisfied by this precarious protocol, California Congresswoman Jackie Speier reached out to 23andMe on Thursday. As one of the most recognizable at-home DNA testing companies in the current marketplace, Speier thought they could actually help families, while the “A file” numbers are more likely to confuse them.

Sure enough, her request moved up the chain. The representative happily shared the company’s response with The Mercury News:

“They have committed to providing all the tests necessary to test the parents and the children,” Speier told this news organization.

Speier said the next step is to reach out to federal officials for direction on how to move forward with testing.

“It doesn’t change the fact that these children have been subject to clinical child abuse or that they’ve been scarred for life,” Speier said. “But I feel a little more confident that we’re going to reunite parents and children.”

Hopefully the Trump administration accepts this much-needed assistance, instead of turning it down to feed their performative helplessness in the face of their own terrible practices—just like they did to justify the separations in the first place. Either way, 23andMe CEO and cofounder Anne Wojcicki is all in.

Spread the word: we’ve got at least ONE good idea to help these families reunite. As a country of innovators, surely we can find some more, and create a plan to undo some of this completely unnecessary and devastating damage that the Trump administration has inflicted on thousands of families.

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