DNA tests split immigrant families

1 minute read

I missed this story about immigration and DNA testing when it was printed earlier this year. The story looks at some personal stories of immigrants who have had their DNA matches to family members outside the U.S. tested, as part of their attempts to win them entry to the country. Seeing the article linked at Eye on DNA, I found it really heartbreaking:

For Isaac Owusu, a widower, the revelation has forced him to rethink nearly everything he had taken for granted about his life and his family.
It has left him struggling to accept what was once unthinkable: that his deceased wife had long been unfaithful; that the children he loves are not his own; and that his long efforts to reunite his family in this country may have been in vain.
The State Department let his oldest son, now 23, come to the United States last fall, but said the others -- a 19-year-old and 17-year-old twins -- could not come because they are not biologically related to him.

The article claims that such non-matches among immigrants who undergo testing are very common:

But Mary K. Mount, a DNA testing expert for the A.A.B.B. -- formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks -- estimates that about 75,000 of the 390,000 DNA cases that involved families in 2004 were immigration cases. Of those, she estimates, 15 percent to 20 percent do not produce a match.

Some part of that proportion is explained by women who have been raped as refugees; others are the usual story -- men who were always sure they were the father, except they weren't.

Immigrants are not required to take these DNA tests, and negative results do not preclude family members from entering the country -- adoption being one solution. But the stories are poignant, with people discovering they are not always who they thought they were.