The Trump administration has moved toward collecting DNA samples from asylum seekers under the umbrella of an FBI database used by law enforcement agencies, according to The Associated Press.
The amended regulation, slated to be published Monday, will mandate DNA collection for almost anyone detained even temporarily while crossing between official entry points, according to the AP.
The move would not apply to legal permanent residents or children younger than 14. The Hill has reached out to the Justice Department for clarification on whether asylum-seekers crossing at official points of entry will be exempt.
The proposed rule would vastly expand officials’ power to collect DNA, which is only permitted for migrants prosecuted in federal court for criminal offenses.
The new regulations will be effective Monday upon publication, with the DOJ planning to put a pilot program in place shortly after the 20-day comment period ends, according to the AP.
The Trump administration has presented the rule as necessary to solve and prosecute crimes by immigrants, although multiple studies have indicated both undocumented and legal immigrants are less likely than U.S. citizens to commit crimes.
“The proposed rule change would help to save lives and bring criminals to justice by restoring the authority of the Attorney General to authorize and direct the collection of DNA from non-United States persons detained at the border and the interior by DHS, with the ultimate goal of reducing victimization of innocent citizens,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said in a statement.
“Today’s proposed rule change is a lawful exercise of the Attorney General’s authority, provided by Congress, to collect DNA samples from non-United States persons who are properly detained under the authority of the United States,” he added.
Opponents of the move, however, warned that it goes beyond the mandate of law enforcement agencies.
"This is a solution looking for a problem, undocumented immigrants commit less crime than native-born Americans, and when there are more undocumented immigrants in a community, there is generally less crime," Kristian Ramos, director of communications at the immigrant advocacy group Define American, told The Hill. "This is another expensive, silly overreach by an administration that is out of touch with reality."
Existing federal law requires DNA sample collection for any adult arrested on a federal charge, with at least 23 states requiring testing but only after conviction in some cases. Homeland Security officials announced a planned expansion of the program two weeks ago but did not specify whether asylum-seekers would be included.