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Admin to Require Asylum Seekers' DNA   10/21 06:05

   The Trump administration is planning to collect DNA samples from 
asylum-seekers and other migrants detained by immigration officials and will 
add the information to a massive FBI database used by law enforcement hunting 
for criminals, a Justice Department official said.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Trump administration is planning to collect DNA 
samples from asylum-seekers and other migrants detained by immigration 
officials and will add the information to a massive FBI database used by law 
enforcement hunting for criminals, a Justice Department official said.

   The Justice Department will publish an amended regulation Monday that would 
mandate DNA collection for almost all migrants who cross between official entry 
points and are held even temporarily, according to the official. The official 
spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the regulation 
had not yet been published.

   The rule does not apply to legal permanent residents, or anyone entering the 
U.S. legally. Children under 14 are exempt. It's not clear yet whether 
asylum-seekers who come through official crossings will be exempt.

   Homeland Security officials gave a broad outline of the plan to expand DNA 
collection at the border two weeks ago, but it was not clear then whether 
asylum-seekers would be included, or when it would begin.

   The new policy would allow the government to amass a trove of biometric data 
on hundreds of thousands of migrants, raising major privacy concerns and 
questions about whether such data should be compelled even when a person is not 
suspected of a crime other than crossing the border illegally. Civil rights 
groups already have expressed concerns that 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-day comment period ends and expand from there, the official said. The new 
regulations are effective Monday, after the regulation is published.

   Trump administration officials say they hope to solve more crimes committed 
by immigrants through the increased collection of DNA from a group that can 
often slip through the cracks. The Justice official also said it would be a 
deterrent --- the latest step aimed at discouraging migrants from trying to 
enter the United States between official crossings by adding hurdles to the 
immigration process.

   Currently, officials collect DNA on a much more limited basis --- when a 
migrant is prosecuted in federal court for a criminal offense. That includes 
illegal crossing, a charge that has affected mostly single adults. Those 
accompanied by children generally aren't prosecuted because children can't be 
detained.

   President Donald Trump and others in his administration often single out 
crimes committed by immigrants as a reason for stricter border control. But 
multiple studies have found that people here illegally are less likely to 
commit crime than U.S. 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 through 2014, states with bigger shares of migrants have lower crime rates.

   Immigrant rights advocates were immediately critical following initial 
disclosure of the DNA collection plans two weeks ago.

   "That could really change the purpose of DNA collection from one of criminal 
investigation to population surveillance," American Civil Liberties Union 
attorney Vera Eidleman said then.

   Curbing immigration is Trump's signature issue, but his administration has 
struggled in dealing with the surge of people trying to enter the United 
States, mostly Central American families fleeing poverty and violence.

   Authorities made more than 810,000 arrests at the border during the budget 
year that just ended in September --- a high not seen for more than 10 years. 
Officials say numbers have since fallen following crackdowns, changes in asylum 
regulations and agreements with Central American countries, but they remain 
higher than in previous years.

   DNA profile collection is allowed under a law expanded in 2009 to require 
that any adult arrested for a federal crime provide a DNA sample. At least 23 
states require DNA testing, but some occur after a suspect is convicted of a 
crime.

   The FBI database, known as the Combined DNA Index System, has nearly 14 
million convicted offender profiles, plus 3.6 million arrestee profiles, and 
966,782 forensic profiles as of August 2019. The profiles in the database do 
not contain names or other personal identifiers to protect privacy; only an 
agency identifier, specimen identification number and DNA lab associated with 
the analysis. That way, when people aren't a match, their identification isn't 
exposed.

   The only way to get a profile out of the system is to request through an 
attorney that it be removed.

   Federal and state investigators use the system to match DNA in crimes they 
are trying to solve. As of August 2019, the database produced 479,847 hits, or 
matches with law enforcement seeking crime scene data, and assisted in more 
than 469,534 investigations.

   Justice Department officials are striking a line in the regulation that gave 
the secretary of Homeland Security discretion to opt out of collecting DNA from 
immigrants because of resource limitations or operational hurdles.

   Justice and Homeland Security officials are still working out details, but 
cheek swab kits would be provided by the FBI, the official said. The FBI will 
help train border officials on how to get a sample, which shouldn't take more 
than a few minutes.

   Customs and Border Protection already collects fingerprints on everyone over 
14 in its custody.

   The new regulations will apply to adults who cross the border illegally and 
are briefly detained by Customs and Border Protection, or for a longer period 
by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

   Those who come to official crossings and are considered inadmissible and not 
further detained will be exempt. Other exceptions are being worked out, the 
official said.

   More than 51,000 detainees are in ICE custody. Border Patrol custody 
fluctuates its facilities only hold migrants until they are processed and 
either released or sent to ICE custody. At the height, more than 19,000 people 
were held. Recently it was down to fewer than 4,000.


(KR)

 
 
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