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Home DNA Testing

News and insights in the world of DNA and genetics for paternity, immigration and forensics

Archive for the 'Immigration' Category Grouped Archives

The Department of Homeland Security, is studding the possible use of a scanner that could map out DNA in less than an hour.  The device is portable and about the size of a desktop printer and is being built by Network Biosystems (or NetBio). The idea is to use the scanner on asylum seekers and refugees.  Current technology enables determinations of relationships between parents and children or among siblings, but it does not effectively prove distant relationships.

The device has explosive potential for misuse. John Verdi, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, stated that, “there are a lot of legal and constitutional hurdles that would have to be overcome for it to be lawfully used.” Not to mention the publics perception based on the reaction to the advanced X-ray devices deployed by the Transportation Security Administration last year.

As a matter of fact, the TSA made a preemptive statement after word of the device emerged. Curtis Burns stated on the company’s blog that the scanner is for use by a TSA sister agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which plans to use it to test for family relationships for foreigners applying for asylum or refugee status. In a direct statement Burns wrote, “TSA is not testing and has no plans to use any technology capable of testing DNA.”

DHS spokesman Chris Ortman said, ”the DHS Science and Technology Directorate expects to receive a prototype DNA analyzer device this summer to conduct a preliminary evaluation of whether this kind of technology could be considered for future use.” He went on to state that, ”at this time, there are no DHS customers, nor is there a timeline for deployment, for this kind of technology this is simply a preliminary test of how the technology performs.”

DHS would be required to meet the federal requirements for the protection of personally identifiable information stipulated by the Privacy Act of 1974.  According to Verdi, ”those requirements and obligations have to be observed. The department would be well advised to vet this technology through its privacy committees and its internal privacy apparatus. In addition, there needs to be independent oversight of a program like this. There needs to be oversight by lawmakers and oversight by citizens who are experts in these areas of technology, health records, and security to ensure the agency is not collecting data, retaining data, or sharing data contrary to law and regulation.”

Read more:
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By Lindsay Wagner

The choice to immigrate is a hard one to make. Now, imagine just how hard the transition will be for your child. Yes, some children are able to adapt to new situations easily, but there are a few prevalent issues that will cause great emotional discomfort. As a parent, you interest lies in ensuring that your child is happy. Your child’s emotional state counts. It is important to help your child to settle into their new environment.

What can you do to ensure that the transition is made bearable for your child?

Establish security

Inform your child about every step of the immigration process. Ensure that your child is involved in every aspect, as much as possible. Don’t keep your child in the dark. This is essential. Suggest that your child packs some of their own toys into boxes and place them into a removal truck, then have them unpack their toys themselves in their new home. This will help establish stability and continuity.

Look on the bright side

View this event as an opportunity to teach your child that saying goodbye isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Help them look forward to their new life. Also, help your child to cherish the memories he/she have made in their home country. Create a scrap book of memories with your child before you leave your country of residency. Once you’ve moved to your new home, create a similar scrapbook with your child. This time focus on your new home including the new opportunities available to your child. This will help build excitement about the move.

Focus on School holidays

If possible try to move when the school holidays are taking place in your new home country. This will give your child some time to adjust. Summer is the most popular time to relocate. This is a time when your child can focus on a new environment.  Family and a good support system will become crucial at this point.

Play Catch Up

Spend time with your child emailing and post letters to close friends and family. Join a social network, such as facebook and create a family group to help you child keep up-to-date with family events. This will help your child to remain close and ‘intact’ with the family.

Let your child be the designer

A sure way to allow your child to become comfortable in his/her surroundings is to allow your child to help decorate. Ask your child to suggest a colour, features and furniture for his/her bedroom. Remember, your child’s bedroom will become a haven. It needs to make your child happy. Create a soothing atmosphere with your child’s input.

Discover your new home

Make the transition an adventurous experience. Spend a day travelling around, discovering new interesting places. Perhaps, visit the local museum or library. Children are always keen for a new adventure. This will help create an exciting buzz to the transition.

Party, Party, Party!

Make the transition an enjoyable experience. Invite new friends and neighbours and their children over to your new home. Invite them for tea or games. This is a great way to help you and your child settle in. It’s also a great way to help you child if they are missing friends and family.

Relocating can be an awesome experience. However, it is vital that your entire family share in the excitement. By taking this into consideration and doing your utmost to ensure that your child is prepared, your child can start a life in a happy frame of mind.

Reported in the New York Times on Monday, public prosecutors in Berlin are investigating allegations that staff in some German embassies took bribes in exchange for issuing visas.

According the the Foreign Ministry local staff in German embassies in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa have issued visas in exchange for money and have overlooked false statemenst and did not properly review applications. These allegations have already brought about the dissmisal of some employees and investications are ongoing.

Police suspect that human trafficking networks seeking to bring women to work as prostitutes where being run from with in Germany and were using bribes to gain visas.  Officials cannot say how many visas were issued in exchange for bribes.

Humanitarian efforts are delicate issues, and the U.S. State Department’s suspended East African family-reunification is a prime example. The program, known as Priority Three (P3), was instituted to reunify families from civil war-torn areas with relatives living in the U.S..  The program was suspended in March of 2008 and has not been reopened at this time.

According to the State Department in February of 2009:

There are currently three priorities or categories of cases that have access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Priority One and Two applicants are granted access to the program through an individual referral by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a U.S. Embassy or qualified NGO, or by membership in a group of cases designated as having access to the program by virtue of their circumstances and apparent need for resettlement. Priority Three, or P-3, refers to individual cases from eligible nationalities who are granted access for purposes of family reunification with certain legal residents in the United States.

The State Department decided to preform DNA test on the P-3 starting with the embassy in Kenya to test for fraud.  What they discovered is that the rate of fraud varied from country to country but they were able to confirm biological relationships between fewer than 20% of the cases tested (family units outside the U.S.).

The suspension of this program effects families in a variety of locations including:  Afghanistan,  Bhutan,  Burma,  Burundi,  Central African Republic (CAR), Colombia, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),  Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC),  Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.

As of October 22, 2008, the Department of State stopped accepting Affidavits of Relationship (AORs) for all nationalities. Although in locations where there is no evidence of fraud (Bangkok, Cairo, Havana, Ho Chi Minh City, Istanbul, Kathmandu, Moscow, and Vienna) there are a small number of AORs that were submitted and cleared prior to March 2008 are being processed. No new applications will be accepted for any nationality at this time.

This does not mean that the State Department has not been working to assist the refugee populations seeking admittance to the U.S.  According to the State Department:

We continue to work closely with UNHCR to determine which African refugee populations are appropriate candidates for group and individual referrals. For example, we recently authorized the processing of several thousand Eritrean refugees in a camp in Ethiopia and continue to receive P-1 (individual) referrals of Congolese, Burundians, Somalis, and other African nationalities.

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Back in the 1700s, the best way to determine who a persons father was, was by taking a good hard look at the child, followed by a good hard look at the father. If there were enough coincidences then maybe a relationship could be possible. by the 1800s, it was discovered that eye color could be a paternity identifier. With recent DNA advances we have learned that the eye color theory is flawed. We now know that eye colour is determined by at least six different alleles, or genetic markers. Fortunately paternity testing has become a lot easier and much more affordable over the past few years due to advances in DNA science.

Although an estimated 200,000 DNA tests are conducted each year by states needing to determine child-support and welfare issues, not as many people are willing to conduct their own at-home paternity test because they don’t realize the simplicity and convenience of an at-home paternity test.

How does home DNA testing work?

Paternity testing requires a painless sample from both the child and possible father. Even without a sample from the mother, DNA paternity test results are up to 99.9% accurate. Most companies provide testing material which they will mail directly to you so that you can provide the samples.

Because of advances in DNA testing it is no longer necessary to draw blood. Buccal (mouth) swabs are the standard. These swabs have the same genetic information that is carried in blood but none of the hazards. By gently massaging the inside of the child’s mouth, cheek cells are collected. These cells are then sent to the lab for testing. Labs analyze up to sixteen genetic markers of the child and match them against the markers of the alleged father. Because each of us receives half our genetic markers from each parent, the results of DNA paternity testing are still accurate without the DNA information of the mother but a really good test will include the mother this helps insure that there is no chance of a false positive.

What else can a DNA test do?

DNA test kits can also be used to analyze sibling relationships, establish cousin or grandparent relationships, determine twin zygosity (i.e. whether twins are fraternal or identical), identify ancestral origin, verify Native American decent, assure parents they left the hospital with the right baby, and most important, provide legal evidence – be prepared to pay a bit more for legal tests. Legal tests can be used to settle adoption issues, settle child-support disputes, and provide information for immigration files. Legal tests can not be preformed using a home test kit.

How to choose a DNA laboratory

  • Accreditation is a vital part of choosing a laboratory. Accredited labs have an annual audit and inspection, undergo internal and external reviews, and have their equipment calibrated for accuracy. Look for an ISO and/or AABB certification. Accredited labs will have a good reputation and near 100% track record for court cases.
  • Make sure you understand all the fees.  Keep an eye out for hidden fees. Some companies will charge you for the kit and then charge you again for the results.  This is especially true of kits purchased at a pharmacy or store.
  • Double check when you order your kit that you’re only buying the results you need.  If you need a test for any official purpose (changing a name or birth certificate) Make sure you are getting a legal test.
  • Ask about privacy. Make sure that your identity and intentions are kept secure.

Enjoy piece of mind. Be confident that the questions you have can be answered and that DNA testing is safe easy and stress-free.

By Alex Blake

DNA testing is done for a variety of  reasons. DNA evidence can link an alleged criminal to a crime scene.  DNA paternity and maternity testing can identify a child’s father or mother. DNA relationship testing can determine if two individuals are from the same family. DNA ancestry testing can determine ethnic origins and genealogical roots.

How DNA testing is done depends on the what kind of results are desired and on what types of samples are available. DNA fingerprinting (or profiling as it’s also known) is the process of analyzing and comparing two different DNA samples. Only identical twins have the exact same DNA sequence, everyone else’s DNA is unique. This makes DNA the perfect way to link individuals to each other or to locations where they have been.

The entire DNA chain is incredibly long, much to long to examine all of it in one test. Human DNA is made up of about 3.3 billion pairs. The differences between DNA samples occur only in small segments of the DNA–the rest of the DNA is pretty much the same. DNA testing focuses on those segments that are known to differ from person to person.

As DNA testing has evolved over time, the testing methods have become more precise and are able to work with much smaller DNA samples. Early DNA testing was done using dime-size drops of blood. Today’s tests can extract DNA from a drinking container. The DNA is extracted from whatever sample is provided (some times there is not enough DNA to provide for testing). DNA must be isolated and purified before it can be compared. In essence, it has to be “unlocked” from the cell in which it exists. The cell walls are usually dissolved with a detergent. Proteins in the cell are digested by enzymes. After this process, the DNA is purified, concentrated, and then tested.

DNA testing is done most often today by using a process called “short tandem repeats,” or STR. Human DNA has several regions of repeated sequences. These regions are found in the same place on the DNA chain, but the repeated sequences are different for each individual. The “short” tandem repeats (repeated sequences of two to five base pairs in length) have been proven to provide excellent DNA profiling results. STR is highly accurate–the chance of misidentification being one in several billion.

While in 2006 and 2007 there was a big push to create genetic passports for, plants, animals, microorganisms and even people this seems to be a dream of the past.  What happened to genetic passports?  Why was there so much interest in them?  How were they going to be used?

In 2007 a group of experts from  over 25 countries supported a Peruvian proposal to create ‘passports’ for genetic resources to help track their use outside the country of origin.  This was in response to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which says each on the 150 countries that signed has sovereignty over genetic resources originating within their boarders.

The idea to create genetic passports was suggested by the Technical Expert Group of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Lima, Peru and, would allow countries to control the use of such resources outside of their borders, by providing specific information such as the material’s origin, its characteristics and the institutions responsible for providing it and using it.

While it seems that the proposal was widely praised.  It does not look like it was ever adapted buy the Convention on Biological Diversity.  In fact in a paper titled “Genetic Diversity and Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources” the authors state that:

Accurate passport and characterization data are the first requirements, but users of plant genetic resources, particularly plant breeders, have also emphasised the need for improved evaluation of accessions. Evaluation is a complex process and there is serious backlog in most collections.

So it seems that while genetic passports for resources is a good idea the implementation is lacking but what about creating genetic passports for people?

In 2006 the Russian Academy of Sciences together with Moscow State University is developing a programme for studying molecular and genetic aspects of human individual nature with multiple goals one of them being providing the Russian population with genetic passports, thus creating the basis for unique person’s identification.  These genetic passport were suppose to help; assess and reduce risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer, prevent neurodegenerative diseases, analyze neurophysiological characteristics of an individual at the molecular level, identify newborns who are susceptible to allergens, medications and other “agents,” examine genetic variants of the central nervous system to “reveal future abilities,” promote personalized medicine, collect genetic biometric data on the Russian population, unambiguously identify anyone.

Canada also debated issuing genetic passports but in their case they were interested in crime prevention.  The goal of theis to provided information that will eliminate identity fraud. The genetic information would be stored in a chip in your passport and would be read by a scanner.  This led to concerns about security and privacy of the information.  What appears to have happened is while this is also a nice idea it never developed fully and was never implemented.

It seems genetic passports are a dream of science that have never made it past the theory stage, either from lack of funding or no real way to implement the process.  The reality seems to be that genetic passports have become a thing of the movies (Code 46 or Gattaca are good examples).

Would you get a genetic passport either for health care or travel?  Would it matter how that information was stored and who had access to it?

22 October 2007PARIS (AFP) – Thousands of people took to the streets across France Saturday to protest against a bill going through parliament that would bring in DNA testing for foreigners wishing to join their families here.

Organisers said some 3,000 people attended a march through Paris as part of a “national day of solidarity with foreigners”. Police put the figure at 1,500.

The protests, organised by immigration campaigners, leftist groups and rights organisations, drew between 500 and 1,000 people in Bordeaux and several hundred each in Marseille, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes, Rennes and Dijon.

Among those marching in Paris was Arlette Laguiller, spokeswoman for the far-left Lutte Ouvriere party, who denounced the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy for “pandering to the far-right” with the immigration law.

Demonstrators held banners calling for illegal immigrants to have their status formalised and urging an end to deportations and to “genetic filing”.

Many employed immigrants were among the crowd. Ahmed, a 37-year-old removal man, complained that “we have been paying our taxes for years and we should be regarded by the government as other workers are”.

The immigration bill, which is expected to approved in parliament this week, has met fierce opposition from left-wing critics but also some members of the ruling right, as well as religious leaders and campaigning groups.

Supporters say the measure would make it possible for would-be immigrants to speed up the application process by proving their kinship to family members in France. They point out that 12 other EU countries carry out similar tests.

But opponents say the bill would set a dangerous precedent by making genetic affiliation a criterion for citizenship.

The government was forced to make a series of concessions to the proposed law to win over critics, including introducing the DNA tests only in countries where civil status documents proving kinship are often counterfeited.


Subject: French news

THE French Parliament yesterday adopted an immigration Bill that has sparked angry debate for introducing DNA testing of foreigners who want to join relatives in France.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has faced street protests and opposition even within his own camp over the Bill, which imposes new conditions for migrants to be reunited with their families.They include possible DNA tests to prove kinship.

The opposition Socialists voted unanimously against the Bill, saying it sets a dangerous precedent by resorting to genetics to determine who gets a place in France, instead of human rights principles.

However Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux defended the Bill before the National Assembly, saying it had been “caricatured” and had fallen victim to “political tactics” instead of “disagreements on principle”.

Mr Hortefeux said 12 European countries already allowed DNA testing of immigration applicants.

France’s Socialist and Communist parties reaffirmed they would ask the Constitutional Council, the country’s highest legal authority, to strike down the Bill.

Hello and welcome to DNA Identifiers blog about DNA testing!

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