Activists send letter to President Biden asking to resume DNA testing at the US-Mexico border

San Diego activists sent a letter to President Joe Biden Tuesday, asking him to re-implement DNA tests at the border to try and reduce the sex trafficking of children.

Karina, from Guatemala, recounted her experience being subjected to one of the DNA tests at the San Ysidro Point of Entry in June 2021. She said it was a long process that made her children nervous and her 6-year-old daughter curious.

"A swab under the tongue, all over the mouth. To the children, it was something simple. It does not hurt or anything," Karina said.

San Diego County District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond signed the letter sent to President Biden. Desmond says it cannot be tolerated that 50% of the 8,000 cases of trafficking that occur in the year in San Diego are of children.

"Unfortunately, on June 1 of this year, President Biden's Administration stopped DNA testing on families and what happens is that families cross the border, ask for asylum and have their interview, but many times these children are being trafficked," according to Desmond.

The organization "Al Otro Lado" (The Other Side), which has helped thousands of families cross into the United States, also explained that these DNA methods increase the vulnerability of migrant children.

"That there is a risk, that children are vulnerable is real, but it seems to me that the issue of DNA testing is not the point that will solve this vulnerability but everything else, the whole process, of how all these children arrive at the border," said Soraya Vázquez, deputy director of "Al Otro Lado.”

Where they have a higher risk of being victims of trafficking.

"Minors were in this vulnerable situation and were probably being trafficked or very exposed to this. At one time, it was easier to cross when you were accompanied by a child, then there was this trend of borrowing children from family members to cross [into the U.S.]," Vázquez added.

Meanwhile, Desmond acknowledged that there are special situations, such as stepparents where other techniques can be created, but they also saw children being used as bargaining chips to get to the United States.

"We don't want anybody to be buying children to cross the border and turn this into a business and we learned from Border Patrol agents, that a lot of times they saw people crossing with children and they didn't have proof that they were theirs," Desmond said.

Karina added that while waiting for the test was hard after everything she saw on her way to California, getting tested wasn't the worst experience of applying for asylum.

Activists added that it's also important that these procedures also get implemented at the Mexican border from institutions such as the DIF (The National System for Integral Family Development )or the prosecutor's offices in Mexico.

According to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, the average age at which minors are trafficked in the United States is between 11 and 13.

This story was originally reported by NBC 7's sister station, Telemundo 20. To read the article, click here.

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