US to start collecting DNA from people detained at border

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HOUSTON, TX (AP) — The U.S. government on Monday launched a pilot program to collect DNA from people in immigration custody and submit it to the FBI, with plans to expand across its entire borders with Canada and Mexico.

The data would go into a massive criminal database run by the FBI, where it would be held indefinitely.

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A memo published Monday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said U.S. citizens and permanent residents holding a “green card” who are detained could be subject to DNA testing, as well as asylum seekers and people entering the country without authorization. Refusing to submit DNA could lead to a misdemeanor criminal charge, the document said.

Immigrant advocates and privacy experts have raised alarms and questioned whether data collected to stop criminal activity could instead be used for surveillance.

The DHS memo acknowledged that the DNA its agents collect may not be immediately useful. Agents plan to take saliva swabs of detained people, then mail them to the FBI. By the time the results are processed, the memo said, the people in question may have already been released, deported or transferred to another federal agency.