Publication Title

Stanford Law and Policy Review


dna testing, immigration, parentage

Document Type



Genetic technologies are being implemented in areas that extend beyond the field of medicine to address social and legal problems. An emerging example is the implementation of genetic testing in the family petitioning process in immigration policy. This use of genetic testing offers the potential benefits of reducing immigration fraud and making the process more efficient and accessible for immigrants, especially those without documentation. However, little is known about the positive or negative impacts of such testing on immigrant families and their communities.

This study collected empirical data through family interviews to understand the experiences and attitudes of individuals who have taken a DNA test to prove a family relationship for immigration purposes. Based on study results, we present a set of recommendations to improve the processes with which DNA testing is applied to immigration cases. We argue that DNA testing might serve as a useful tool for families who lack documentary evidence of a family relationship. However, testing might also reveal sensitive information, such as misattributed parentage, that can damage relationships and cause serious harm to beneficiaries, especially children. Petitioners should be provided with adequate information to form an understanding of the DNA test and its implementation as well as the positive and negative consequences from using it, in order to carefully assess whether DNA testing will help their case. We recommend that additional protections be put in place to safeguard children from the potential impacts of misattributed parentage or disclosure of hidden social adoptions. This research provides empirical evidence to inform policy related to the use of genetic testing in immigration.



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