On October 21st, 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a ruling to mandate DNA collection of immigrants who come between official entry points by “strik[ing] a provision authorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to exempt from the sample-collection requirement certain aliens from whom collection of DNA samples is not feasible.”
As medical students and human beings, we are strongly opposed to the mandatory collection of DNA from immigrants. DNA is highly intimate medical information. Mandatory DNA collection is an infringement of human rights. More so, it is reckless to require an agency to collect DNA when they do not have the resources and operation to appropriately collect DNA.
Our DNA data contains a goldmine of revealing personal information. Therefore, it requires the utmost privacy and security. By mandating the collection of DNA for non-violent crimes, the US government would be infringing on this personal privacy.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the expansion of a DNA database will not lead to any significant gains in the fields of law enforcement and forensics but will raise questions on the security of a person’s genetic data. The ACLU raises “privacy and civil liberties concerns” that the “[amended] rule changes the purpose of DNA collection from criminal investigation to surveillance of the population.”
Mandating collection of DNA is reckless
Mandating the DHS to collect DNA of every migrant who crosses between official entry points not only infringes on human rights but is also undeniably reckless.
DNA needs proper safeguards, period. Like any other medical information, genetic information - including “human DNA, RNA, chromosomes, proteins, or metabolites” - is protected under HIPAA. DOJ’s new policy flagrantly violates the personal protection afforded by HIPAA and creates an imprudent opportunity for DHS to mishandle personal, medical, and genetic information.
Undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes
If the DOJ goes through with this ruling under the reasoning of public safety, then it opens a Pandora's box for U.S. citizens to lose rights to their DNA, and by extension, privacy. The DOJ could logically want to collect the DNA of all U.S. citizens because the probability that U.S. citizens will commit violent crimes is higher than that of undocumented immigrants. As medical students, we care deeply about the health of our nation, but not at the steep cost of our privacy and liberty, and certainly not when the risks of such a “public health” implementation outweigh the benefits.
What you can do to impact this proposed ruling
Action can be taken against the proposed DOJ ruling. There is a 20-day comment period for this rule starting October 22nd, 2019. The deadline to submit public comments is Nov 12, 2019, and the DOJ is required to review all the public comments. The comments will be public, but you are not required to submit personally-identifying information. We provided a template for public comment here. Please leave a public comment to the DOJ on this webpage.
Bibliography (APA 6th edition)
Chapin, A. (2019, October 8). ICE moved 700 women out of a detention center and won’t tell lawyers where they are. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ice-moved-700-women-out-of-a-detention-center-and-wont-tell-lawyers-where-they-are_n_5d9cdd55e4b087efdba3fe71?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000618&fbclid=IwAR18cw9ymbcR_f-WQedTc7l5y1j0v_0V_JKjg5yHZCi5W6UMMqq2w8Crkm4&guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly9sLmZhY2Vib29rLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAGfqltfC56IJLKqPEBo9tF2AN6EVL5K2r5FQQghxN1f2NI1B4ehQvSW94XdQtql5208z1claWt-QWMbLcIZO9S_hzNN88ExI0FJjfk78ZSxPpqI0xxrV2WFKhraMJHfzN9k5fhhXv6X1kvmwcWWK1Q90cUFvPqSNhtcP0jY21X9_
Collection of DNA samples. 28 CFR § 28.12 (2008, December 10). Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/28/28.12
DNA-Sample collection from immigration detainees; Office of the Attorney General, Department of Justice. 84 FR 56397 (proposed 2019, October 22) (to be codified at 28 CFR § 28)
Flagg, A. (2019, May 13). Is there a connection between undocumented immigrants and crime? The Marshall Project. Retrieved from https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/05/13/is-there-a-connection-between-undocumented-immigrants-and-crime
Lanard, N. (2018, May 25). Here’s how the government managed to lose track of 1,500 migrant children. Mother Jones. Retrieved from https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/05/heres-how-the-government-managed-to-lose-track-of-1500-migrant-children/
Light, M. T., & Miller, T. (2018). Does Undocumented Immigration Increase Violent Crime?*. Criminology, 56(2), 370–401. doi: 10.1111/1745-9125.12175
Light, M. T., Miller, T., & Kelly, B. C. (2017). Undocumented Immigration, Drug Problems, and Driving Under the Influence in the United States, 1990–2014. American Journal of Public Health, 107(9), 1448–1454. doi: 10.2105/ajph.2017.303884
Long, C. (2019, April 19). DHS chief says more funds needed to handle crush of migrants. Associated Press. Retrieved from https://www.apnews.com/9596a259cc024fe0ad0f27754de3450e
Marper v. The United Kingdom,  ECHR 1581. (2008, December 4). Retrieved from http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/2008/1581.html
Maryland v. King. (2013, June 3). Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/cases/maryland-v-king?redirect=criminal-law-reform-technology-and-liberty/maryland-v-king
Nowrasteh, A. (2018). Criminal Immigrants in Texas: Illegal Immigrant Conviction and Arrest Rates for Homicide, Sex Crimes, Larceny, and Other Crimes. Immigration Research and Policy Brief. No. 4. Retrieved from https://www.cato.org/publications/immigration-research-policy-brief/criminal-immigrants-texas-illegal-immigrant
O’Brien, B. G., Collingwood, L., & El-Khatib, S. O. (2017). The Politics of Refuge: Sanctuary Cities, Crime, and Undocumented Immigration. Urban Affairs Review, 55(1), 3–40. doi: 10.1177/1078087417704974
United Nations, General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy: note by the Secretariat. A/HRC/31/64. (2016, November 24). Retrieved from https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/31/64
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