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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Swab On Your Way In: The Use of DNA Tests in Immigration

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Tally Kritzman-Amir
Harvard University

Due to concerns regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) and in keeping our campus community safe, all Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life events will be cancelled for the remainder of the academic year.


Abstract: Comparative study of Western democracies shows a slow-but-persistent growth in the use of DNA testing in immigration control. The argument is that this growth epitomizes some of the current concerns of immigration law: the fact that it is aggressively exclusionary, increasingly privatized, relies on the application of biopower, and suffers from increased racialization.


headshot of Kritzman-Amir

Tally Kritzman-Amir is a visiting associate professor in sociology at Harvard University (2018-2020), an Israel Institute fellowship recipient, and a senior lecturer of immigration and international law at the College of Law and Business, Israel. Kritzman-Amir received her LLB and PhD from Tel Aviv University (2002 & 2009), and has since been one of the leading immigration and asylum law and policy experts in Israel. She authored dozens of articles and edited a book on refugees and asylum in Israel in a comparative socio-legal perspective. Kritzman-Amir was a Fox International Fellow at Yale University (2006-7), a Hauser Research scholar at New York University (2008-9), a Polonsky Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute (2010-5), a visiting fellow at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program, and a Scholar-in-Residence at the Hadassah Brandeis Institute (2017-18).

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In The News

When we hear DNA testing, we usually think positively: science, progress, innovation. But, the current administration’s discussions of DNA testing those held at immigrant detention facilities could be detrimental, as those tested will be entered into a national criminal database. The ethics are tricky, and increasingly relevant in the U.S.