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It May Soon Be Legal to Collect DNA from Immigrants

A proposed rule would allow immigration officials to collect DNA from detainees. This information is then placed in a national criminal database. This decision will impact 748,000 migrants.

Prior to the passage of this rule, the FBI was already collecting DNA from anyone who had been arrested, charged, or convicted of serious crimes. 

If the new rule is put into effect, detained children will be added to this list, as will individuals seeking legal asylum, in addition to anyone else who is being held in detention centers. Even individuals who are held only temporarily will be subject to having their biogenic data collected from them against their will, and perhaps later used against them.

The Trump administration claims they need to do this for any number of reasons. They claim it will deter crime and solve cold cases. They also claim it will help them catch “family fraud” at the border, an extremely rare phenomenon wherein individuals travel with children who aren’t theirs to take advantage of laws protecting such families…such as they are in an age where ICE takes children from parents.

This “fraud” usually happens when an aunt, uncle, or sibling travels with a child.

Theoretically, legal permanent residents and anyone seeking to enter the country legally won’t be impacted. Theoretically, because it’s worth noting that US Citizens are occasionally booked and detained accidentally. Their information would end up in this database too.

According to the rule, the Secretary of Homeland Security could also “exempt from the sample-collection requirement certain aliens from whom collection of DNA samples is not feasible because of operational exigencies or resource limitations.”

Supposedly, names and other personal data will not be stored, and the FBI would only receive an identification if the sample matched a crime.  

The administration is attempting to take advantage of a previously established loophole. While the Supreme Court has ruled that the constitutional right to privacy holds regardless of immigration status, an exception is in effect that allows suspension of the 4th Amendment within 100 miles of the border. Even American citizens are subject to this suspension, and may be subject to suspicionless searches.

The ACLU has already taken a stand against this policy. 

The policy is currently open for public comment for the next 12 days. You can comment here. You can also mail comments on or before November 12, 2019. If you wish to mail a comment, it must be mailed to:

Regulations Docket Clerk

Office of Legal Policy

Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Room 4234

Washington, DC 20530

See also:

What to Do If You are an Immigrant Accused of a Crime