On October 22, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would amend regulations to require DNA sampling from hundreds of thousands of noncitizens. Specifically, this rule would require DNA collection from “individuals who are arrested, facing charges, or convicted, and from non-United States persons who are detained under the authority of the United States.”
Legal permanent residents and other immigrants entering the country legally will not be subject to this rule. Attorney General William Barr issued the rule “with the expectation that federal authorities will gather DNA information on about 748,000 immigrants annually, including asylum-seekers presenting themselves at legal ports of entries.”
Immigrant advocates fear that this rule will have implications for U.S. family members of individuals whose fingerprints are taken. Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel at the ACLU, said that DNA collection is “the most intimate information that you can take from someone. It is information you can use to find their family members, to know their histories. And we’re going to be taking it from people against their will.”
The Justice Department hopes to send the DNA collected from noncitizens to an FBI database that contains the DNA of individuals who have been convicted of crimes in an attempt to lead to more crimes being solved. This goal has been denounced by immigrant advocates who point to studies demonstrating that the increased flow of undocumented immigrants to the United States does not lead to a spike in crime.
This rule is subject to a 20-day comment period that is likely to see rebuke from immigrant advocates. The Trump Administration’s efforts to harm immigrants is as active as ever, and this rule is just one of the many examples of this onslaught.