U.S. authorities are now in the middle of sifting through the nearly 3,000 children in its care as the court-mandated deadline for reuniting them draws near. To speed up the process, the Health and Human Services plans to conduct DNA tests.
It's a decision that could help the U.S. government re-unite the thousands of children in their custody with their parents faster and more accurately, in a way that solves issues like language difficulties and lack of identification.
The Health and Human Services had earlier reported to a Senate panel that they had 2,047 children in their care that they need to reunite with their families. That was the number of kids separated from their parents following the "zero tolerance" policy instated this June, according to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
The court mandate, however, has ordered HHS to reunite all the migrant children with their parents, including those who went into the agency's custody before the onset of the "zero tolerance" policy — which now brings the number of children they need to process within the deadline to nearly 3,000.
"It's important to remember that information from children can at times be unreliable," Azar said, as quoted by NBC News. Aside from that, there are also cases of children becoming separated from their parents during their journey, even before they reached the border.
The agency will be conducting DNA tests by taking a cheek swab of every child before matching him or her with a parent, and the tests will only be used for that sole purpose, according to Cmdr. Jonathan White, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS.
With the court-mandated deadline for reuniting the separated children with their parents may seem short, the agency is using the means they have at their disposal to meet it. "We will comply even if those deadlines prevent us from conducting a standard or even a truncated vetting process," Azar said.