Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) next week plan to conduct a limited pilot evaluation of biometric technology based on DNA analysis to determine whether alien family units entering the U.S. from Mexico are indeed related to help stop fraud and to thwart human trafficking, Department of Homeland Security officials said in Wednesday.

CBP and ICE will use a relatively new technology called Rapid DNA, which can determine in less than two hours of a tissue sample taken by swab whether two or more people are related. Legacy methods for DNA collection and analysis can take weeks or months to obtain results.

DNA is a material found in living organisms that contains genetic information, which is used to determine familial relationships.

ANDE’s Rapid DNA instrument. Photo: ANDE

The desktop devices can be used locally, rather than have tissue samples be sent to a lab for analysis.

The desktop Rapid DNA devices will be supplied by ANDE, which introduced its technology in 2014, and will be used in several undisclosed locations on the southwest border, the officials said in a background teleconference for media.

The two DHS agencies will use the Rapid DNA to “determine kinship to stop human trafficking at the southern border,” John Boyd, assistant director for Futures Identity in the DHS Office of Biometric Identity Management, said at the annual Connect:ID conference just before the DHS media call.

From Jan. 1 through early March, CBP and ICE have uncovered more than 1,000 instances of fraudulent family claims for aliens attempting to enter the U.S. along the southern border, the DHS officials said on the call.

The Rapid DNA can also be used to identify bodies, as is being done in Puerto Rico more than a year after Hurricane Maria devasted portions of the U.S. territory, Boyd said at Connect:ID. He also said the technology has applications in verifying familial relationships among refugee claimants.

Rapid DNA devices supplied by ANDE were used to help identify the remains of more than 80 percent of the 85 fatalities in last year’s wildfire in Paradise Fire in California. The bodies of the victims were essentially incinerated, but sample collection combined with the Rapid DNA devices was surprisingly effective, Chris Miles, deputy director for Standards Integration and Applications at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, said at Connect:ID on Wednesday.