People are concerned for their privacy regarding the new pilot program being implemented by the United States. The program involves collecting DNA from migrants and immigrants being held in immigration custody. The program is being applied at both the Canadian and U.S. borders.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the project will begin Monday and will last for 90 days. The program will first be used in Texas and Michigan and is meant to eventually expand to the rest of the country.
The Border protection and Customs plan to gather swabs from those seized by the U.S. Border Patrol. The locations included in this collection are Detroit and the surrounding area, as well as Eagle Pass, Texas.
They will be collecting DNA from people above the age of 14.
People entering the U.S. without authorization as well as permanent residents carrying green cards will be among those affected by the program. People who decline the program’s rules can be criminally charged.
Acting director of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law’s International Human Rights Program, Petra Molnar told Global News, “I think it’s definitely an example of how hard-line and draconian the policies in the U.S. in particular are turning when it comes to immigration, custody and detention.”
“That’s one of the things that I think is unclear about this super problematic policy,” Molnar added. “It’s incredibly over-broad, and we don’t know who would actually be affected.”
Molnar also noted that this gathering of information usually ends up targeting minorities.
In their memo, the government mentioned that the DNA collected might not be useful straight away. The swabs of saliva that are collected are then mailed to the FBI. Since the results of the test take time, the people in question may have already moved on.
The government has mentioned that people who come into the country legally will not be will not have their DNA taken. The CBP has accidentally assumed that people crossing the border were doing so illegally in the past though.
The U.S. military ironically released a memo urging members not to take consumer ancestry tests due to concerns of privacy.
The memo read, “Exposing sensitive genetic information to outside parties poses personal and operational risks to service members.”
So far concerns have been raised by the American Civil Liberties Union among others.
ACLU attorney Stephen Kang, wondered if the country was making “a DNA bank of immigrants that have come through custody for no clear reason.”
“It raises a lot of very serious, practical concerns, I think, and real questions about coercion.”
President Trump’s administration has recently mentioned that they plan to use biometrics more than they currently do to stop illegal immigrants.
Chinese authorities are among other countries that have reportedly used similar tactics of DNA collection on residents.