Tuesday, April 10, 2007

When the DNA Does Not Match...

Immigration officials, seeking to prevent legal immigrants from bringing non-related people to the U.S., falsely identified as relatives, have turned to DNA testing to confirm familial relationships. Under U.S. law, legal immigrants with residency or citizenship can petition the government to allow close family members to join them in the U.S. DNA tests are voluntary, but presumably aid an applicants petition to bring loved ones here. However, in a not-so-surprisingly large percentage of cases, the DNA tests indicate the claimed family members are not who the immigrants say - or think - they are.

For 14 years, Isaac Owusu’s faraway boys have tugged at his heart. They sent report cards from his hometown in Ghana and painstaking letters in fledgling English while he scrimped and saved to bring them here one day.

So when he became an American citizen and officials suggested taking a DNA test to prove his relationship to his four sons, he embraced the notion. Imagine, he marveled as a lab technician rubbed the inside of his cheek, a tiny swab of cotton would reunite his family.

But modern-day science often unearths secrets long buried. When the DNA results landed on Isaac Owusu’s dinner table here last year, they showed that only one of the four boys — the oldest — was his biological child.

Despite the evidence that three of the boys he once thought were his sons were someone else's children, Mr. Owusu still wants them to come. Though the revelation has caused him pain.

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.

Isaac Owusu, who asked that only his first and middle names be published because he would like to keep his family’s pain private, is still hoping the government will allow the teenagers to join him, arguing that he has been a devoted stepfather, if not a biological parent.

But in recent months, he says, he has simply unraveled.

“Sometime when I get in bed, I don’t sleep,” said Isaac Owusu, 51, who works for an electrical equipment distributor and an auto supply shop.

“I say to myself, ‘Why this one happen to me?’ ” he asked, his eyes wet with tears. “Oh, mighty God, why this one happen to me?”

Such discoveries are not unique to immigrants. Cuckoldry is nothing new in biology, but DNA testing offers men the first real opportunity to check and see if the children they are raising (or financially supporting) are actually their own.

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.

Negative results can suggest an effort to bring in illegal immigrants or distant relatives, officials say, though they note that requests for DNA tests deter illicit activities. An official, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the cases, found no indication of wrongdoing by the families interviewed for this article.

As with anything else under America's overly-permissive immigration law, a negative DNA test does not mean that the claimed relation cannot ultimately come to the U.S.

A negative result does not eliminate the possibility of reunification. New citizens can adopt children under 16 and bring them to the United States, officials say. They can also petition for stepchildren or stepparents in certain circumstances.

Well, naturally. While the use of DNA testing to identify actual genetic relationships among claimed family members is interesting in and of itself, the article raises the larger question of why the U.S. permits new legal residents to bring their entire families to the U.S. If Mr. Owusu's DNA tests had confirmed the boys to be his, all four would be here now, not just one. Thus, by permitting one legal immigrant from Ghana, the U.S. has actually gained five legal immigrants from Ghana. If Mr. Owusu's wife were still alive, she might be added to that list, making six total immigrants (and a presumably veery lively discussion with her husband). If The Owusu's had more than four children, the number of immigrants would be even higher. This loophole in American immigration law means that actual total legal immigration to the U.S. can be many times the maximum number permitted by law. Given the large, extended families that are so common in Africa and Latin America, permitting large numbers of legal immigrants from those regions means tacitly permitting many times more than the maximum number stated in U.S. law. Thus, granting amnesty to currently illegal immigrants (mostly from Latin America) will open the floodgates, permitting in turn tens of millions of more people from Latin America to flood into the U.S. legally. President Bush knows this, and as he shills for his amnesty (guest worker/path ot citizenship) program, tries mightly to hide this fact from American voters.

Unaddressed by the New York Times article is why the U.S. is admitting someone from Ghana, a country with a culture and demography so radically different from America's. Would Ghana permit a similar number of Americans to immigrate to its soil? Would any Americans want to immigrate there? If America allows the best and brightest (and most motivated) among Ghana's population to emigrate to the U.S., what effect will that have on Ghana's long-term outlook? What does racial fragmentation and balkanization as well as cultural disintegration it do to America's long term outlook? Unfortunately, no one in Washington wants to ask those questions, or answer them.


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