US announces plan to collect DNA samples from immigrants

Brajesh Upadhyay, Washington
Published : 08:37, Oct 22, 2019 | Updated : 08:37, Oct 22, 2019

FILE PHOTO: Migrant men sit on the ground after being detained by law enforcement for illegally crossing the Rio Grande and attempting to evade capture in Hidalgo, Texas, US, Aug 23, 2019. REUTERSThe Trump administration has announced a proposal that makes it mandatory for federal agencies to collect DNA samples from non-US citizens detained at the border.
Government officials believe the new regulation, announced on Monday morning by the US Justice department, will help border officials in better assessing the individuals who cross into the country without proper documents.
“The proposed rule change would help to save lives and bring criminals to justice by restoring the authority of the Attorney General to authorize and direct the collection of DNA from non-United States persons detained at the border and the interior by DHS, with the ultimate goal of reducing victimization of innocent citizens,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.
It’s not clear whether asylum-seekers who come through official entry-points and are detained by immigration officials, will also be included under this policy.
Curbing immigration continues to be top on President Trump’s agenda, but his administration has struggled in dealing with the surge of people trying to enter the United States.
In the last budget year alone, authorities made more than 810,000 arrests at the border.
The new policy now allows the government to gather biometric data on hundreds of thousands of migrants.
Earlier this month, when administration officials briefed journalists about the plan, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement expressing serious privacy and civil liberties concerns.
“Our DNA not only reveals deeply personal information about us, but also information about our relatives. This means the administration’s racist immigration policies will also implicate the rights of family members in other countries and family members here,” it said.
DNA collection is allowed under a US law expanded in 2008 to require that any adult arrested for a federal crime provide a DNA sample. The same law also gave the secretary of Homeland Security discretion to opt out of collecting DNA from immigrants because of resource limitations or operational hurdles.
The current proposal would cut the exception altogether, opening up DNA collection to include people who are awaiting deportation and those who are not charged with a crime, such as undocumented immigrants.
The DNA collection kits will be provided by the FBI who will then also analyse the samples and ensure that law enforcement agencies use the results in accordance with the FBI’s privacy requirement.