The Trump Administration plans to collect DNA samples from individuals in federal immigration custody and add those samples to the national FBI crime database, the New York Times reports. The Associated Press adds that this effort is distinct from the rapid DNA testing the administration is also employing at the border to identify individuals who might be posing as family members.
This new plan, the AP says, would be much broader. According to the Times, Department of Homeland Security officials say the Justice Department is crafting new regulations that would enable immigration officials collect DNA samples from individuals in detention facilities, which currently hold about 40,000 people. The AP notes that immigration officials now generally fingerprint migrants who have crossed the border illegally and share that information with federal and local law enforcement. As the new regulations are under development, the AP notes that it is unclear whether they would apply to children who crossed the border alone or to asylum seekers, and what the purpose of the collection is.
"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 notions of a free, trusting, autonomous society," Vera Eidelman, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, tells the Times.