The US government has finalised a rule allowing the Department of Homeland Security to collect DNA samples from certain detained migrants for security purposes, the Department of Justice said in a press release on Friday.
“The Department of Justice today issued a final rule to implement the Attorney General’s authority provided by the bipartisan DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005 to authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to collect DNA samples from certain non-United States persons it detains”, the release said. “Once implemented, this rule will facilitate federal, state and local investigative and crime reduction efforts”.
Any DNA samples collected by the US federal government will be entered into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Combined DNA Index System, the release said.
The FBI’s laboratory has the capacity to handle the increased workload expected to come and will provide the Department of Homeland Security with the DNA collection kits, the release said.
The release said this action is lawful under the 2005 DNA Fingerprint Act, a measure passed by Congress that permits authorities to take DNA samples from anyone arrested, facing charges or convicted, including non-US citizens.
In October last year, the Justice Department reported that a US pilot programme has started collecting DNA samples from immigrants who arrive in the United States without a visa, part of a larger effort to begin collecting the genetic fingerprints from all migrants arrested for violating immigration laws.
The pilot programme marks an effort to prepare for a rule change announced by the Justice Department to bring the Trump administration into compliance with the DNA Fingerprint Act, approved earlier by the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the October release.
The new rule will require all federal agencies to comply with the DNA fingerprint law, and eliminate the US Attorney General’s ability to exempt DHS from the programme, the release said.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras began migrating to the United States in large caravans since the fall of 2018. The migrants usually make the trek to the United States to seek asylum, either to escape violence or poverty in their home countries.