(USA Features) The Justice Department has approved a measure allowing federal authorities to collect DNA samples from illegal immigrants arrested in the U.S., a move that is sure to spark new controversy with immigrant-rights groups.
The Trump administration approved the new policy Friday. It authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to collect the specimens from illegal immigrants, fulfilling the terms of a 2005 law successive administrations have shirked for years.
Under the new rules, which were posted online Friday and due to be published next week in the Federal Register, Attorney General William Barr can depose of an Obama-era waiver and order DNA samples to be collected by agents and officers of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, the Washington Times reported.
The collections were already supposed to have begun, but in 2010, then-Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano devised a waiver.
That was supposed to have been temporary to give Napolitano’s agencies time to figure out the collection processes, but the waivers were simply renewed each year thereafter without debate.
Whistleblowers exposed the situation last year and filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel. In a 2019 report, the office said that several serious illegal immigrant suspects managed to avoid being held responsible for crimes including homicide and sexual assault.
The report spurred the Trump administration to take action, resulting in Friday’s new rule.
DHS officials noted that the samples collected are not likely to result in many arrests right away for the short time suspects are in custody. But, they say, they could result in arrests down the road if the suspects are captured again.
Democrats decried the new rule as a “human rights abuse,” though again, it was enshrined in law since 2005.
“This policy reinforces the xenophobic myth that undocumented immigrants are more likely top commit crimes than U.S.-born individuals,” three lawmakers, led by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Democrat, wrote in a letter to Homeland Security earlier this year.