Beginning this spring, the federal government will start collecting DNA from immigrants in federal custody, according to a rule published Monday in the Federal Register.
The final rule, which will go into effect in early April, codifies language the Trump administration previewed in October that fully enforces DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005, which requires the government to collect DNA samples “from individuals arrested, facing charges, or non-U.S. persons who are detained.”
The law previously allowed the Secretary of Homeland Security an exemption to waive DNA collection from some detainees over resource limitations and other issues. The new rule eliminates that exemption.
“Today’s rule assists federal agencies in implementing longstanding aspects of our immigration laws as passed by bipartisan majorities of Congress,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen in a statement. “Its implementation will help to enforce federal law with the use of science.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations have pushed back, calling the rule government overreach and suggesting it could violate the privacy rights of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people.
The rule explains DNA samples collected by border agencies—typically through a cheek swab—will be sent to the FBI for indefinite storage in its Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, database. That database contains DNA profiles submitted by state and federal law enforcement agencies and forensic labs, and is used to link known offenders to potential crimes. Eventually, the final rule states border agencies could collect approximately 750,000 DNA samples from detainees annually.