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White House proposes collecting DNA from immigrants

Individuals in Tennessee and around the country who are taken into custody by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would be required to provide a sample of their DNA if a measure proposed by the Trump administration on Oct. 21 is implemented. The proposal would allow information derived from the genetic material to be added to a database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The proposed policy change was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 22. The public has 20 days to submit comments about the measure.

The White House downplayed criticism of the proposed measure by pointing out that collecting DNA from individuals who enter the United States illegally was authorized by Congress in 2005. The Department of Homeland Security suspended the practice during the Obama administration. In addition to improving border security, an administration representative said the DNA collected could be used to prevent fraud and solve open criminal cases.

Advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union oppose the change in policy and say that the DNA collected will be used to monitor immigrant communities and not solve crimes. An ACLU spokesperson referred to the move as xenophobic and said that it would penalize individuals who wish to escape poverty and violence and start new lives in America. If it is implemented, the policy would not affect immigrants who enter the country legally or apply for asylum at recognized border crossings.

The barriers facing foreign nationals who wish to live and work legally in the United States may seem daunting. Attorneys with experience in immigration cases could help those seeking residency or citizenship to navigate the bureaucratic process and ensure that their applications and supporting documents are submitted in a timely manner. Attorneys could also explain how asylum claims are processed and the various alternatives to asylum such as work, student and family-based visas.

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