Trust the Tests?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to learn where you are from, ancestrally? And it’s easy now, right? Just buy a kit, spit into a vial, pop it in the mail, and . . . you’ll soon learn that 38.2% of your tribal roots lay in Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers, the cradle of civilization, for example. But just how accurate is that 38.2% number? How did they do that?

According to scientists, these testing and data analysis models are quite “young.” The human genome contains about three billion “letters” (biochemical markers that we convert to letters). The companies doing the testing focused on your global origins, like Ancestry.com and 23andMe.com, are using statistical analysis to locate sections of your genetic code that are similar to others in their database. Then, they match those with whom you share similarities to specified ethnic regions.

Another challenge that our genetics pose for these tests is “recombination.” Each egg and each sperm carry a different combination, or a different expression, of a parent’s genes. So, let’s say your mother is 50% French and 50% Native American. That makes you 25% of each, right? Not necessarily. Upon fertilization, sections of the different chromosomes may exchange information, and even combine and rewrite sections of DNA to create new, different alleles. Other sections of DNA strands may actually be broken, and other sections from the other genetic parent are synthesized, to create new sections of code, which differ from the genetic code of both parents. This explains why the test results for siblings, with the same parents, can be dramatically different.

Genetic testing for health concerns is also quite immature. Even there, different testing companies interpret the sequences, and their importance and prevalence among other individuals, differently. And of course, testing for health disorders, now or their future likelihood, carries with it many ethical questions, and even insurance concerns.

So, should everyone get their double helix tested and compared to the databases? If you are considering genetic testing for health reasons, you should consult with your physician. If you are curious about your biological connections to broad geographic regions of the planet, and recognize that the results are a statistical analysis, then by all means . . . test away!

Twins Declared Citizens of Different Countries at Birth

Is it possible for twins to have different citizenship’s at birth? According to the U.S. Department of State, the answer is (absurdly) yes.

Andrew Dvash-Banks, a U.S. citizen. and Elad Dvash-Banks who is from Israel are the proud parents of Ethan and Aiden. The twin boys were born in Canada via a surrogate in 2016.

Generally speaking, the child born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent derives U.S. citizenship from that parent automatically at the time of birth. However, to obtain a U.S. passport for that child, the U.S. parent must visit the nearest U.S. Embassy and file a “Consular Report of Birth Abroad.”

But after Andrew registered the births of Ethan and Aiden with the U.S. consular post in Toronto things did not go as planned. The U.S. Department of State issued a passport for Aiden but denied U.S. citizenship to his twin brother Ethan.

The stated reason was that Andrew is Aiden’s biological father whereas Ethan’s biological father is Elad, who is an Israeli citizen and green card holder. Essentially, the U.S. government determined that because Ethan has no biological connection to his U.S. citizen father, he cannot derive U.S. citizenship, even though both fathers are listed on the birth certificate.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of baby Ethan by Immigration Equality (an LGBTQ advocacy non-profit) accuses the State Department of discriminating against same-sex bi-national couples. According to their lawyer, straight couples in a similar scenario would have no problem getting passport applications approved, but the U.S. consulate in Toronto asked this couple invasive questions about how their babies were conceived and eventually required them to obtain DNA tests.

The family of four eventually relocated to the U.S. anyway, with Ethan entering the country on a temporary visitor visa that has since expired. He is currently undocumented.