On Monday, the Trump administration unveiled its controversial pilot program that will collect DNA samples from migrants and immigrants in U.S immigration custody.
CBS News reports that the samples will be taken from cheek swabs and used to create comprehensive profiles in a national criminal database managed by the FBI. This program is the introductory phase of a five-part, three-year Department of Homeland Security effort to create DNA profiles from migrants in U.S. custody, whether they’ve engaged in criminal activity or not, and understandably, many privacy advocates are less than pleased.
“This is going to be a massive intrusion into individual privacy and it seems to us like a way of just collecting a DNA databank of people who are in immigration custody—which we view as really problematic,” Stephen Kang, an American Civil Liberties Union immigration attorney, told CBS News.
In Detroit, border patrol officers have been instructed to collect DNA samples from immigrants as young as 14 and are citing the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005 as justification to potentially prosecute anyone who refuses to comply. And as far as being exempt from the program, only individuals suffering from “mental impairment” or being transported for medical treatment are excused from participating.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection states that the “limited” program will be in effect for the next 90 days as a precursor to subsequent phases.
From CBS News:
During the next four phases, CBP will gradually expand the number of officers, border sectors and ports of entry implementing the policy. After the fifth stage, which officials would consider “full implementation” of the program, the administration could dramatically expand the scope of those subject to DNA collection if the Justice Department and the DHS agree on that course.
And if you’re wondering if immigrants in ICE custody will be subjected to the same DNA collection policy, the answer is yes, depending upon the circumstances.
The privacy impact assessment also indicates that certain immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody will be subject to DNA collection. Since many migrants sent to ICE facilities are transferred from CBP custody, the agency wouldn’t need to collect DNA samples from those who’ve already been subject to the new policy. ICE would obtain DNA profiles of green card holders “arrested for or charged with a criminal violation.”
A spokesperson for ICE declined to answer questions about which facilities this pilot program will be implemented at, but Kang had plenty to say about the matter.
“You’re keeping people in custody and then saying to them, ‘We need to collect DNA sampling from you,’” Kang said. “And they’re in no position to refuse to consent to that because they are in a custodial situation.”