Immigration and Customs Enforcement has awarded Bode Technology potential five-year, $17.3 million contract to provide Rapid DNA testing systems for use in identifying fraudulent family relationship claims by individuals entering the U.S. along the southern border.

The award follows two previous operational evaluations of Rapid DNA technology under the names Operational Double Helix and Operational Double Helix 2.0. In those evaluations, desktop Rapid DNA systems were successfully used to identify fraudulently-claimed familial relationships made by aliens encountered while seeking to enter the U.S., either legally or illegally.

ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division in February said it had identified 11 locations on the southwest border where the influx of illegal aliens is prevalent and where Rapid DNA technology will be deployed.

According to a statement of work that ICE released in conjunction with the solicitation for Rapid DNA testing in February, the agency will ask parents claiming a familial relationship with a child to voluntarily submit to DNA sampling in case they are concerned that the purported parent and child would not be housed or released together.

ICE will not store DNA and the samples will be destroyed after testing. A report generated from the testing will indicate either a positive or negative determination of a parent and child relationship, ICE says.

The new award to Bode follows a 10-month, $5.2 million contract the agency awarded the company last June to continue and expand a pilot program for Rapid DNA testing along the southwest border. That pilot effort concludes this April.

“Our goal with rapid DNA testing remains twofold,” Derek Benner, ICE HIS executive associate director, said in June. “First, to protect children from being smuggled across the border by ensuring they are with their parents and not being used as pawns by individuals attempting to exploit immigration loopholes. Second, to identify and stop the criminal organizations that are generating false documents and supporting child smuggling.”

Last May over a three-day period, ICE conducted a pilot program using Rapid DNA technology and tested 84 family units suspected of fraud. Of those, 16 family units were identified as fraudulent, ICE said. Between mid-April 2019 and June 14, ICE said it had identified about 275 fraudulent families.

The use of the technology is also serving as a deterrent.

“It is clear on-site DNA testing has a strong deterrent effect, as HIS agents witnessed multiple instances of individuals confessing to faux families prior to being tested as well,” Benner said.