Three House Democrats are calling on the Department of Homeland Security to stop the collection of DNA samples from immigrants being held in government custody, calling the practice a "serious human rights issue."
"Unlike fingerprints, DNA reveals deeply personal information about individuals and their relatives," Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, wrote in a letter to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, reports The Hill. "This kind of mass DNA collection could be used to surveil and implicate American citizens as well as their family members in the U.S. and abroad."
They added the DHS makes it clear individuals could be subject to DNA testing because they have come into the United States without documentation, reinforcing the "xenophobic myth that undocumented immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than U.S.-born individuals."
The DNA collection is included in a pilot program that began earlier this month to help confirm family relationships and to investigate criminal activity, according to the Trump administration. The DNA samples are then to be entered into an FBI criminal database.
Customs and Border Protection said in a Jan. 6 announcement, the 90-day pilot program is being limited to the Eagle Pass port of entry in southwestern Texas and to two locations in Detroit, Michigan.
The tests will apply to migrants between the ages of 14-79 who are caught and processed within the Detroit sector and people who are subject to further proceedings or detention at Eagle Pass.
The three Democrats also argued the tests could add to the current backlog in existing criminal investigations, including a backlog of more than 100,000 rape kits that have not yet been tested.
They asked that DHS provide a timeline by Feb. 3 for the program, including the number of people, including minors, who have already have had samples collected, the expected impact on the DNA backlog, and a confirmation the information will not be used for surveillance purposes.
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