The Administration Is Taking Its Program to Collect DNA From Detained Migrants Wide

Honduran asylum seekers taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents.
Photo: Moises Castillo, File/AP

The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it is expanding its DNA collection program to include people who are awaiting deportation and detained undocumented immigrants who haven’t been charged with a crime.

According to BuzzFeed News, the Department of Homeland Security is discussing how to institute DNA collection in arrests made by immigration authorities, senior DHS officials said on a call with reporters today. DHS says they’re currently planning which groups of detained people will have their DNA collected, the privacy concerns involved, and the rollout of the collection program.

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According to a draft proposal obtained by BuzzFeed News, DHS cites the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2015, which allows U.S. officials to collect DNA from people in its custody, even if they’re not American. Previous DHS regulations exempted people not detained on criminal charges and people awaiting deportation proceedings from DNA collection, which would change under the new plan. As the site reported:

The draft proposal obtained by BuzzFeed News would cut that exception all together, opening DNA collection up to include people who are awaiting deportation and those who are not charged with a crime, such as undocumented immigrants.

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The DNA results could then be placed into a nationwide database that contains millions of other profiles for hits on potential previous criminal activity, officials explained in the proposal. A senior DHS official told reporters Wednesday that the collection would help better identify immigrants in custody and help assist other agencies who come in contact with the individual.

In August, it was reported that the Trump administration was looking into allowing CBP to run DNA collection. Earlier this year, DHS had launched a pilot program involving DNA collection through ICE, which used rapid DNA testing to verify family ties between children and parents in ICE custody and catch so-called “fake families.”

Nearly a month after its May launch, ICE announced it was expanding the two-to-three-day-long pilot program to seven locations along the border, for no more than 50,000 tests. According to CBS News, DHS officials on the call said the DNA collection would test for familial ties but would also be used to “identify” detained people using a “more full scope” DNA profile than available with the rapid DNA program tests.

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Samantha Grasso

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan