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The Trump administration wants to DNA test migrants in federal custody



The Trump administration wants to collect genetic material from undocumented immigrants in government custody, according to a draft policy that was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

If it goes into effect, the policy would allow officials from Customs and Border Protection to start DNA testing detained immigrants. CBP officials could spend upwards of 20,000 work hours implementing the policy in its first year — and hundreds of thousands of individuals could be eligible for testing.

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security would rely on software to collect DNA in as little as five minutes.

The draft does not bar Immigration and Customs Enforcement — the main government body that detains and deports undocumented immigrants — from taking part in the program, BuzzFeed News reported. A Department of Homeland Security official said in the report that ICE piloted a program near the US-Mexico border, where they took voluntary tests of individuals to identify fraudulent family claims.

Read more: A new Trump administration rule undermines key protections and sanitary standards for migrant children. The move is dangerous and cruel

According to PolitiFact, ICE released data in June that revealed 20% of cases generated DNA evidence disproving a family relationship.

Former immigration officials told BuzzFeed News that collecting DNA material from immigrants would likely waste agents’ time and drain their resources.

“In many ways, it’s unnecessary from a law enforcement perspective,” said John Sandweg, a former senior Obama administration immigration official. “I don’t understand what you’re going to get out of it. The idea that some guy crossing the border committed a crime returned and came back all undetected is very remote.”

The proposed Trump administration policy will likely draw pushback from immigrant advocates and civil liberties groups who argue the federal government should not collect that type of personal information from individuals without being suspected of a crime.

Currently, the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005 allows federal agencies to DNA test any individual in their custody. Trump administration officials contend testing would aid officials at the border processing migrants.

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