The Justice Department will collect DNA from most people arrested or detained by federal authorities, says the New York Times. It is a vast expansion of DNA gathering that will include hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. The new forensic DNA sampling was authorized by Congress in an amendment to last year’s renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. The amendment permits DNA collecting from anyone under arrest by federal authorities, and also from illegal immigrants detained by federal agents.
The law has strong support from crime victims' organizations and some women's groups, who say it will help identify sexual predators and also detect dangerous criminals among illegal immigrants. Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project, which has exonerated dozens of prison inmates using DNA evidence, said the government was overreaching by seeking to apply DNA sampling as universally as fingerprinting. “DNA profiles have the potential to reveal our physical diseases and mental disorders,” he said. “It becomes intrusive when the government begins to mine our most intimate matters.” Immigration lawyers noted that most immigration violations, including those committed when people enter the country illegally, are civil, not criminal, offenses. They warned that the law would make it difficult for immigrants to remove their DNA profiles from the federal database, even if they were never found to have committed any serious violation or crime. Federal Bureau of Investigation officials anticipate an increase ranging from 250,000 to as many as 1 million samples a year. The laboratory currently receives about 96,000 samples a year.