Border Officers Will Collect DNA Samples from Detained Migrants

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 28: Honduran immigration detainees prepare to board their U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), deportation flight bound for San Pedro Sula, Honduras on February 28, 2013 in Mesa, Arizona. ICE operates 4-5 flights per week from Mesa to Central America, deporting hundreds of undocumented immigrants detained …
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Border officers will start collecting DNA samples from detained migrants who are trying to get into the United States, agency officials confirmed Friday.

The policy is set by a “Final Rule” which directs government officials on how to implement the DNA collection law passed by Congress in 2005. A March 6 press statement from the Department of Justice said:

As a result of this rule change, the Department of Justice will ensure that all federal agencies are in full compliance with the bipartisan DNA Fingerprint Act, which was a component of a larger legislative package that passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 415 to four, and the Senate by unanimous consent.  The DNA Fingerprint Act provided the Attorney General with the exclusive authority to draft regulations to authorize and direct any federal agency to “collect DNA samples from individuals who are arrested, facing charges, or convicted or from non-United States persons who are detained under the authority of the United States.” 24 U.S.C. § 40702(a)(1)(A).

The databases will help officials verify the identity of already deported migrants for subsequent criminal prosecution on reentry charges.

The data may also be used for the investigation of crimes committed in the United States by the minority of migrants who become career criminals. However, the migrants who sneak over the border wall will also evade the DNA test at the border.

The Wall Street Journal reported March 6:

The new rule, posted by the Justice Department on Friday and set to take effect in April, will require immigration officers to collect cheek swabs from what could amount to hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants taken into federal custody each year, including migrants at the border and people asking for asylum.

The move, which is sure to face court challenges, injects a new civil-rights issue into the debate about immigration policy. It will amount to a significant expansion of the government’s DNA database, operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that primarily contains samples from people accused of committing serious crimes.

Collecting DNA samples from immigrants has long been one method floated to better track criminals who had once been in federal immigration custody but might not otherwise be known to law-enforcement officials. In 2005, Congress passed a sweeping new law giving the government more authority to DNA-test and fingerprint criminals, an expansion of government power after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, though it permitted the Department of Homeland Security not to take these measures with immigrants in its custody. The Obama administration exercised that exemption, arguing such a collection effort would amount to an impossibly cumbersome task.

The DNA sample collected from migrants will be sent to federal databases, where it can be used to measure the identity of people who are arrested on suspicion of committing crimes. The DoJ statement said:

Since Congress’ passage of the bipartisan DNA Fingerprint Act, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) built a high-throughput DNA sample processing infrastructure through its Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).  The CODIS database is a vital tool for federal, state, and local law enforcement investigations.  All fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and federal law enforcement agencies participate in the national sharing of DNA profiles through CODIS.  The FBI also has consistently reduced the operational burden for individual federal agencies to collect DNA through technological enhancements.



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