U.S. Issues Rules to Collect DNA from Asylum-Seekers

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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, the Associated Press reports. The Justice Department on Monday issued amended regulations that would mandate DNA collection for almost all migrants who cross between official entry points and are held even temporarily. The rules would not apply to legal permanent residents or anyone entering the U.S. legally, and children under 14 are exempt, but it’s unclear 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 unclear 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 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 have expressed concerns that data could be misused, and the new policy is likely to be challenged in court. Justice officials hope to have a pilot program in place soon after the 20-day comment period ends and expand from there. The new regulations are effective Tuesday. Trump administration officials 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 said the move would be a deterrent, the latest step aimed at discouraging migrants from trying to enter the U.S.between official crossings by adding hurdles to the immigration process.

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