Immigration and civil liberties groups criticized a new U.S. government policy to collect DNA samples from all noncitizens detained by authorities and all people arrested for federal crimes, reports the Washington Post. The new rule, published Wednesday and effective Jan. 9, dramatically expands a federal law enforcement database of genetic identifiers, which is now limited to storing information about convicted criminals and arrestees from 13 states. Congress authorized the expansion in 2005, citing the power of DNA as a tool in crime solving and prevention.
The FBI created its National DNA Index System in 1994 to store profiles of people convicted of serious violent crimes; the system has been expanded, first to include all convicted felons, then misdemeanants and state arrestees. The data bank contained more than 6.2 million samples as of August, and officials estimate that 61,000 cases have been solved or assisted using DNA. The change could add as many as 1.2 million people a year to the national database. Charles Kuck, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the rule “casts civilly detained immigrants as criminals, requiring them to submit to DNA testing even in cases where there is no suggestion of any criminal violation.” The Obama administration also will have to decide whether to make it a priority to expand the DNA database or process a backlog of samples submitted by people already convicted of crimes.