Back to Blood: The Sociopolitics and Law of Compulsory DNA Testing of Refugees

65 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2017

See all articles by Edward Dove

Edward Dove

University of Edinburgh - School of Law

Date Written: 2013


Since October 2012, certain family members of refugees seeking reunification through the United States Refugee Admissions Priority Three program must undergo DNA testing to prove they are genetically related. The putative purposes of the policy include fraud prevention, enhanced national security, and greater efficiency in refugee claims processing. Upon close inspection, however, the new policy generates significant sociopolitical and legal concerns. The notion of what constitutes a family is significantly narrowed. Required DNA testing may violate domestic laws and international human rights instruments regarding voluntary informed consent, privacy, and anti-discrimination. Traditional legal solutions insufficiently remedy these concerns and cannot prevent the collective march towards an intractable risk society that views the “Other” as a potential fraud. Alternative strategies to mitigate the impact of the new policy are recommended. Such strategies can allow for a more nuanced understanding of family and a firmer understanding of the inherent but also uncertain risks of DNA technology in the immigration and refugee context.

Keywords: DNA, genetics, politics, law, immigration, security, bioethics, biopolitics, refugee

Suggested Citation

Dove, Edward, Back to Blood: The Sociopolitics and Law of Compulsory DNA Testing of Refugees (2013). University of Massachusetts Law Review, Vol. 8, 2013, Available at SSRN:

Edward Dove (Contact Author)

University of Edinburgh - School of Law ( email )

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, EH8 9YL
United Kingdom

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