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Moving Forward With Migrant DNA Collection Plans

The US is moving forward with plans to require DNA samples from individuals seeking asylum, the Associated Press reports. It adds that the Department of Justice proposed a rule change to enable DNA to be collected from migrants, though with some exemptions.

Earlier this month, the Trump Administration announced that it planned to collect DNA samples from individuals in federal immigration custody and add those samples to the national FBI crime database. This plan, the AP noted at the time, is distinct from, and broader than, the administration's initiative to use rapid DNA testing at the border to identify individuals who might be posing as family members.

In a notice in the Federal Register, the DOJ says it is seeking to eliminate an exception to DNA collection that had been granted to the Department of Homeland Security. As the AP notes, the Secretary of Homeland Security has been allowed to opt out of collecting DNA from immigrants due to limited resources or other operational limitations. If this proposed rule is adopted, people who are detained by Customs and Border Protection or by Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be subject to DNA collection, the AP says, adding that exemptions to the rule are still being worked out.

"This proposed change in policy is ... transparently xenophobic in its intention," Naureen Shah from the American Civil Liberties Union tells the AP.

The proposed rule is open for comments through November 12, 2019.