DOJ to take DNA samples from immigrants in U.S. illegally

Families embrace between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on October 26, 2019. The Justice Department announced a plan Friday to enforce a law requiring that a DNA sample be taken, and stored by the FBI, from all people entering the United States illegally. File Photo by Justin Hamel/UPI

March 6 (UPI) — DNA samples will soon be taken from migrants crossing the U.S. border and stored in a federal criminal database, the Justice Department ruled Friday.

The move, a significant expansion of immigration law, is likely to be challenged in court.

The ruling authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to collect DNA samples from immigrants who illegally enter the country and are in federal custody. The collection is authorized by the DNA Fingerprint Act, a law passed in 2005. It requires a DNA sample, typically done with a simple swabbing of the mouth, from anyone arrested, facing charges or convicted, as well as from any non-U.S. citizen detained under federal authority.

Although 15 years old, the law has been only sporadically enforced. DHS, during the Obama administration, said it lacked appropriate manpower and sought an exemption from the law. In October, the Trump administration disclosed plans to enforce it, adding the technology and process is now easier and less expensive. The results will be sent to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, known as CODIS, which the FBI defines as “the generic term used to describe the FBI’s program of support for criminal justice DNA databases.”

It is similar to the FBI’s fingerprint database, which is used to identify suspects through fingerprints found at crime scenes. Pilot programs for DNA collection began in January in Detroit and at the Eagle Pass entry port in Texas.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Mich., and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, are critical of the DNA collection process, saying it “reinforces the xenophobic myth that undocumented immigrants are more likely to commit crimes.”


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