Genetic Testing in Immigration for Family Reunification: Ethical, Legal and Social Implications
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This body of work addresses the ethical, legal and social implications of using genetic testing as part of US immigration procedures for family reunification. Last year, approximately two-thirds of immigrants who came to the US as legal permanent residents were family petitioned under the family reunification provision. Under this provision, a petitioner, who must be a US citizen or permanent resident, petitions to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to bring his or her immediate family members (spouse, children, parents or siblings) to the US. As part of the application process, the petitioner is required to show proof of the alleged family relationships claimed in the petition. This is typically done through documentation (e.g. birth certificates). But when documents are lacking or insufficient, or fraud is suspected, US immigration officials may suggest DNA testing (parentage or sibling testing) as a way to verify family relationships. In the past several years, DNA testing has become more frequent in immigration procedures, but the impact such testing may have on immigrants, their families or their communities is not clear. The objective of this study was to explore the positive and negative effects DNA testing may have on immigrant families, particularly regarding how test results might impact family relationships, social adaptability, and psychological well-being. This study incorporated interviews with immigrant families to (1) understand their experiences with DNA testing, and to (2) learn their opinions about the potential positive and negative effects of using DNA testing to prove alleged family relationships in immigration. Results from this research were used to develop educational materials including (a) an informational brochure for immigrants planning to petition for a family member under family reunification provision, and (b) an ethical "points-to-consider" document to inform policy-makers, immigration lawyers, advocates and immigrant communities about the study findings and the implications of using DNA testing in immigration for family reunification.