White House to collect DNA from asylum seekers

President Donald Trump's US administration is planning to collect DNA samples from refugee applicants and other migrants detained by immigration officials and will add the information to a huge FBI database used by police to hunt down criminals, a Department official said. of justice.

The Justice Department on Monday issued amended regulations that would require DNA collection for almost all migrants crossing official entry points and being temporarily held.

The official said the rules do not apply to legal permanent residents or anyone legally entering the United States, and children under 14 are exempt, but it is not clear whether asylum seekers who pass official tickets will be exempt.

The official spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity prior to the publication of the regulations.

Homeland Security officials gave an overview of the plan to expand DNA collection at the border two weeks ago, but it was unclear whether asylum seekers would be included or when they would start.

The new policy will allow the government to accumulate a large amount of biometric data on hundreds of thousands of migrants, raising major privacy concerns and questioning whether such data should be compelled even when a person is not suspected of a crime other than crossing the border. border illegally. Civil rights groups have already expressed concerns that the data could be misused and the new policy is likely to lead to legal action.

Justice officials hope to have a pilot program in place shortly after the 20 comment period and expand from there, the official said. The new regulations take effect on Tuesday.

Trump officials say they hope to solve more crimes committed by immigrants by increasing DNA collection from a group that can often escape the cracks.

The court official also said this would be an impediment - the latest step designed to discourage migrants from trying to enter the United States between official crossings, adding obstacles to the immigration process.

Authorities now collect DNA much more narrowly - when a migrant is prosecuted in federal court for a crime. This includes illegal crossing, a burden that primarily affected single adults. Persons accompanied by children are usually not prosecuted because children cannot be detained.

Trump and other members of his government often highlight crimes committed by immigrants as a reason for tighter border control. But several studies have found that people in the United States illegally are less likely to commit crimes than US citizens, and legal immigrants are even less likely to do so.

For example, a study last year in the journal Criminology found that from 1990 to 2014, states with the largest share of migrants have lower crime rates.

Alex Nowrasteh, director of immigration studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, which also studied the issue, said it was unnecessary.

“Fingerprints and current biometrics are more than enough to identify criminals and keep them out of the United States. DNA collection is expensive, will be poorly performed and does not make Americans safer, ”he said.

Immigrant rights advocates were immediately critical.

"This proposed policy change is ... transparently xenophobic in its intent," said Naureen Shah, senior advocate for policy and advocacy at the American Civil Liberties Union.

"He seeks to mistreat these individuals, many of whom seek a better life or security as threats to the country's security."

Limiting immigration is Trump's signature issue, but his government has struggled to cope with the rise in people trying to enter the United States, especially Central American families fleeing poverty and violence.

Authorities made more than 810.000 border arrests during the fiscal year that just ended in September, an increase not seen for more than 10 years.

Officials say the numbers have fallen after crackdowns, changes in asylum regulations and agreements with Central American countries, but they remain higher than in previous years.

Source: The Associated Press