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The US prepares a new regulation to collect DNA samples of detained migrants

October 3, 2019

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (DPA / EP) –

The Donald Trump government is preparing a new regulation that will allow security forces to collect DNA samples from detained migrants so that this genetic information is incorporated into the databases of federal agencies such as the FBI, which could lead to a legal persecution against them, as organizations of defense of Human Rights have warned.

The ones in charge of executing this new regulation will be the departments of National Security and Justice, for which they will use Immigration and Customs and Border Protection agents, who will receive specific training to collect DNA samples.

This idea is based on the pilot program that is already underway to determine if migrant adults and children arriving at the border are really family. In June, the interim secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleen, indicated that, of the 109 alleged families who underwent genetic testing, 17 turned out not to be family, which represents 15 percent of the total.

The new regulation will offer “a completely different path,” according to official sources. It will not be limited to the verification of family ties, but will provide a “complete DNA profile” that will be included in the FBI database. At the moment, it is not clear to whom it will apply and if it can refuse or what use will be made of genetic information.

Questioned about the long-term implications of the fact that people in police custody but without any accusation end up in a database for criminals, the officials consulted have ensured that the privacy standards will be met. “There is a criminal aspect in this population,” one of them has apostilled.

“The Government does not have a good record of collecting and protecting genetic material from marginal populations, including foreigners and people of color,” so, “in the absence of a limiting principle, I am really concerned about (possible) abuses,” he said. Andrew Free, a Nashville Human Rights lawyer told the CQ Roll Call news portal.

Meanwhile, Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, an NGO that offers legal help to migrants in the state of Washington, has warned that the new regulation could increase the separation of migrant families, a government practice that has had to stop justice.

“Given the horrible separation of children, from delays in family reunification and efforts to prolong detentions, it is no surprise that they are trying to use something like this to cause more problems in family separations,” he warned.

In Adams' opinion, “we must assume that any information given will be used for legal purposes.” Jenn Budd, a former border agent turned activist, has told CQ Roll Call that this genetic information can help federal forces create a map about the migrant network that can be used for future legal persecution.

“And, of course, who it is going to affect especially is people of color and at the border,” Budd predicted. Free recalled in this regard that “marginal populations in border areas are a testing ground for new technologies.”

In addition, Free has pointed out that these practices could also be used against US citizens. “What Americans should ask themselves is whether it seems good to them that in the future, when they are arrested for a civil fault, such as a traffic ticket … the government can massively collect their genetic information,” he said.