FBI, DHS preparing regulation to collect DNA from all detained migrants

Migrant detainees are seen on July 13 housed in a locked room at the McAllen Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas. File Photo courtesy of U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui's office

Oct. 3 (UPI) — The Trump administration said it is planning to expand authority to collect DNA from tens of thousands of undocumented migrants in federal custody as part of a national database designed to enforce immigration laws.

The Department of Homeland Security told reporters Wednesday the Justice Department is crafting a regulation that would allow federal agents at detention centers to collect genetic samples from detained migrants for the database. About 40,000 such migrants are being held in detention centers nationwide, officials said.

The samples would be cross-checked with a national crime database. The change would add thousands of new records to the FBI’s DNA database, which has so far been limited to samples from migrants who have been arrested, charged or convicted of serious offenses.

The rule expanding DNA collection is expected to be published soon by Homeland Security officials. The departments of Justice and Homeland Security are still working to finalize the regulation, NBC News reported.

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Adding new DNA records to the federal criminal database would help agents identify migrants who have prior criminal records in the United States, many of whom have eluded authorities’ attention for years. If one of the migrants commits a future crime, they would be easily identifiable through the database.

Some immigration and privacy advocates fear the expansion intrudes upon migrants’ privacy and targets a vulnerable segment of the population.

“That kind of mass collection alters the purpose of DNA collection from one of criminal investigation basically to population surveillance, which is basically contrary to our basic notion of a free, trusting, autonomous society,” said attorney Vera Eidelman of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

Congress approved a law in 2005 that authorized a large-scale collection of DNA profiles from criminals, but a provision of the statute exempted migrants.

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