Collecting DNA From Asylum Seekers at the Border Raises Privacy Concerns
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is collecting DNA from asylum seekers at the border, recent media reports confirm. This is the latest expansion of DNA collection as part of a program initiated under the Trump administration that targets nearly all immigrants in government custody. A growing number of noncitizens are being subjected to this invasive collection of sensitive personal information with little knowledge or understanding of how their information will be used or stored by the federal government.
While the southern border remains largely closed to asylum seekers due to the Biden administration’s continuation of the Title 42 expulsions policy, some families and particularly vulnerable individuals are being allowed to enter to pursue their claims. And it is this population that is being subjected to DNA collection as they enter the United States.
The Biden administration has continued this policy despite privacy concerns and no clear justification. It contradicts the administration’s recent decision to withdraw a Trump-era rule that would have expanded biometrics collection to petitioners and beneficiaries of immigration benefits.
Proponents of the program argue it can help investigate crimes and reveal the immigration history of people who misrepresent their identity at the border. But the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has acknowledged that it won’t be able to process the DNA fast enough for it to be useful in ongoing criminal investigations. Also, the program is estimated to cost DHS nearly $14 million over its first three years.