Immigrant aid group rejects 23andMe's help reuniting families, says it will do more harm than good

The immigrant aid group Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services has turned down 23andMe's offer to donate DNA kits to help reunite families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border as a result of President Donald Trump's zero-tolerance policy, according to KQED News.

23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki tweeted her company would donate its genetic testing services after Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., asked for its help. Ms. Speier was concerned whether immigration officials had maintained accurate records to reunite parents with their children, many of whom are too young to know basic identifying information or relatives' phone numbers.

However, when 23andMe offered to help RAICES, the group politely refused and noted the idea could lead to more harm than good.

"These are already very vulnerable communities, and this would potentially put their private information at risk," RAICES Communications Director Jennifer Falcon said, according to KQED News. "Essentially we're solving one violation of their civil rights basically with another."

A 23andMe spokeswoman told the news outlet, "We are well aware that genetic data contains highly personal information and we want to ensure that it is handled confidentially and with the consent of anyone tested. Providing our testing through legal services ensures attorneys of the families can protect their privacy by only using this data to assist in reunification efforts. It's incredible to see the community come together to help bring these families back together."

Instead of DNA kits, Ms. Falcon said attorneys and translators are what separated families need most.

"I think we need to be cautious of trying to make quick fixes because families being separated by this system is not a new thing. While we are all talking about this right now, families often get separated by the shuffle of the immigration system, and the current administration is just muddying this process even further by constantly changing the way that they're doing things," Ms. Falcon told KQED News.

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