After piloting a similar program at the US-Mexico border, the Department of Homeland Security is now hoping to expand.
The United States government, fueled by President Donald Trump and his administration, announced today that it would roll out a DNA testing program on immigrants at all of its detention centers. The information collected through these DNA tests will be compiled and added to a criminal database, The New York Times reports. If this sounds eerily familiar, it's probably because it's a lot like what Adolf Hitler proposed and carried out during the Holocaust. The plan, the Department of Homeland Security stated, is an expansion of an already existing pilot program that was introduced earlier this year at camps along the US-Mexico border. Needless to say, this information leaves many potential asylum-seekers and immigrants in harm's way; At this critical juncture in time, the United States should be safeguarding those fleeing their countries due to reasons beyond their control, like political instability, violence, and poverty.
In the summer this year, the DHS introduced Rapid DNA technology to the screening process at detention centers. This new technology can process DNA samples in about 90 minutes, making it quick and easy for a Border Patrol agent to determine if two individuals are family members or not. The pain point here is, however, that not all families can be connected to each other through DNA. Adoptive parents, for instance, could be at risk of losing their child if their DNA tests don't match. While the Trump administration and conservative federal government claim that this will curb illegal immigration, it may, on the other hand, build a conducive environment for massive human rights violations.
This fact is not lost on Vera Eidelman, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties' Union Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, who stated in an email to The Verge, "Forced DNA collection raises serious privacy and civil liberties concerns and lacks justification, especially when DHS is already using less intrusive identification methods like fingerprinting. This kind of mass collection also alters the purpose of DNA collection from one of criminal investigation to population surveillance, which is contrary to our basic notions of freedom and autonomy."
The possibilities the government acquires through these seemingly small and inconsequential DNA tests can be vast and detrimental beyond measure, she said. The attorney asked, "What if the government used the genetic information it collects to determine access to employment, our ability to have kids or get married, and other benefits, particularly as technology develops and our genetic information purportedly reveals even more about us?" It is these very questions that plague the minds of potential immigrants as well as liberal folk. Answering thoughtfully, Eidelman said, "We should hope that these are unlikely hypotheticals, but they’re not far-fetched considering the government’s long history of engaging in wrongful behavior towards people based on their genetic composition." This is one of the reasons why the newly-introduced DNA tests have been especially worrisome. The criminal database will compile a much broader data set of information - and will be sent straight to the FBI. The new plan has been authorized under DNA Fingerprint Act according to the DHS. Up until now, all immigrants entering the United States have been exempted from this process unless they’ve duly committed a crime. Only time will tell if the Trump administration can buckle under pressure from dedicated activists.