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U.S. Plans to Collect DNA from Migrants in custody

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The Trump administration is planning to collect DNA from Migrants who cross US borders, compiling the genetic information operated by the FBI.

In fact, the Department of Justice was preparing a regulation for expanded DNA collection that was still being worked out between the two agencies, two senior DHS officials who spoke on the state they not be recognized told in a news teleconference.

The movement would be a significant expansion of the government’s DNA database, produced by the FBI, that contains samples from people arrested for committing serious crimes.

Senior Justice Department officials said the expansion brings the government in better compliance with a 2005 law directing it to collect biometric information from several groups of people, including criminals and unauthorized immigrants, though that law gave the Homeland Security secretary discretion to waive the requirement.

The Justice Department officials further told the Trump administration feels compelled to move ahead with the plan to collect DNA from Migrants because it would help the government better recognize immigrants who could commit crimes in the future.

Currently, DHS is operating under exemptions put into place in 2010 by former Secretary Janet Napolitano. The special counsel’s office said a whistleblower informed the office that the DNA collections were not taking place.

The Trump administration still has not estimated the cost of the collections or a timeline to either partial or full implementation, the DHS official said Wednesday.

The cost of their plan to collect DNA from migrants arrested at U.S. borders would include both the expense of testing and the manpower required to gather the samples.

“We’re looking at figuring out a way to do this expeditiously while at the same time ensuring that we have a phased-in implementation,” said the official, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the issue with reporters.

An official said during the call that the rule would be a “DHS-wide effort,” meaning it would cover migrants in the custody of Customs and Border Protection as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Trump administration is planning to collect DNA from Migrants
Image: KDLT

The DNA would then be given to the FBI’s criminal justice DNA database, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), an official said.

With the details still being determined were who would be exempt from the regulation, the officials said, but the policy would be much broader in scope than a pilot program that currently uses rapid DNA technology to collect the biometric data from migrant families when child trafficking or fraud is suspected.

While that pilot program was only establishing maternal and paternal connections, “this is a completely different path forward,” one official told.

“This is a broader population that we’re applying to,” the official said. “This is more of the fuller-scope DNA profile that we’re taking in order to be able to help identify a person.

The move is anticipated to be met with criticism by civil rights and immigrant advocates, who have cited privacy concerns and decried the use of DNA testing for migrants that are not connected with suspicion in serious crimes.

Nearly 20 percent of detainees were held in contracted detention facilities owned and operated by private prison companies by the end of 2017.

Approximately 49,000 people were being detained by ICE as of May 2019, according to the National Immigration Justice Center.

The number of people detained increased roughly 40 percent since the Trump administration enacted its “zero tolerance” immigrant policy. More than 800,000 people have been apprehended at the southwest border in the past year.

Dire conditions in the facilities have led to outcries from human rights groups and federal lawmakers. A report by the DHS Office of Inspector General published this year found that detainees face a variety of serious health and safety risks.

The inspectors discovered, for example, that many housing units were damp and covered in mold. They also witnessed “foul-smelling and unrecognizable” food being fed to the prisoners. The risk of illness due to the conditions is high.

At least seven children are known to have died in U.S. immigration custody since the start of the Trump administration.

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