The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday announced a plan to change regulations so that immigration officers can begin collecting DNA samples from migrants being held in detention facilities. The DNA samples would then be entered into CODIS, the national criminal database maintained by the FBI. CODIS is currently limited to people who have been arrested, charged or convicted in of serious crimes. In addition to allowing for DNA collection on the hundreds of thousands of people booked into federal immigration custody each year—including many children—the new rules would also allow the government to collect DNA from anyone legally seeking asylum at official ports of entry.
DHS officials said the new regulation was inspired in part by a DNA testing pilot program launched this summer on migrants at the Mexican border. That program was used to determine parentage for groups of migrants suspected of posing as a family unit to take advantage of special protections for families. The new regulation would expand on that program by providing a more comprehensive DNA profile of tested individuals, and allowing for those results to be shared with outside law enforcement agencies—a move seen by many as ethically dubious due to the potential for abuse.