Recently, the Justice Department announced plans to collect DNA from all migrants entering the United States at official entry points, with few exceptions. Children under 14 and those entering the country legally are exempt from mandatory DNA collections. DNA will be entered into an FBI database used to find criminals. Other exceptions to the DNA collection are still being explored.
Critics of the plan say it falsely paints the picture of asylum seekers and others entering the United States as criminals, when research suggests migrants here legally and illegally are less likely to commit crimes than the population at large. They also have concerns about how and where this information will be used against individuals arriving to escape poverty, violence, and to build a better life for themselves and their families.
Expanding DNA Collection from Migrants
Prior to these changes, DNA was collected from migrants, but on a more limited basis. At times, it was done at the border to verify that parents were related to children they claimed to be their own. The government also collected DNA from migrants prosecuted for a criminal offense in federal court, including entering the country illegally.
Collected DNA was then entered into an FBI database called the Combined DNA Index System, which contains close to 14 million profiles on convicted offenders, 3.6 million arrestee profiles, and nearly one million forensic profiles. Each profile included a specimen number, the lab where it was obtained, and an agency identifier. Other identifying details were omitted to protect individuals’ privacy. The FBI cross-checks samples submitted from individuals from those on file related to crimes across the nation.
Opinions on Mandatory DNA Collection
Advocates for expending DNA collection at the border say the information will be invaluable in solving crimes committed by populations that can easily go under the radar. They also see it as one more deterrent to discourage foreign-born individuals from entering the United States. Conversely, there are strong opponents to the new DNA regulations. One immigration rights activist and ACLU attorney called the policy transparently xenophobic in its intention, claiming that it implies those seeking entry in this country are only coming here to commit crimes.
Others point to several studies on the subject that suggest migrant groups are far less likely to commit crimes than the larger, native-born population. There are also questions about Border Patrol Agents’ lack of training in the proper collection and handling of DNA samples. How the expanded DNA program will ultimately impact migrant arrivals and solve crimes remains to be seen.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Clients Resolve Challenging Immigration Matters
The Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. are dedicated to helping clients understand their rights under the law so they can make smart choices to protect themselves and their loved ones. We know it can be challenging to understand the new changes to immigration policies and how they impact your family. We are here to answer your questions and oversee your immigration matter to a positive resolution. To discuss your situation, call us at 215-925-4435 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.