by Jason Hopkins
A division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun collecting DNA samples of illegal aliens in its custody and storing the information in a national database.
ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations launched a pilot program earlier in May in Dallas, Texas, that collects the DNA samples of individuals arrested and placed into its custody, the agency confirmed to the Daily Caller News Foundation on Friday. The launch of the pilot program followed backlash from critics who chastised the agency for not implementing it sooner.
“To comply with updated Department of Justice (DOJ) regulation requiring the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to collect DNA samples of everyone arrested and fingerprinted, [ICE’s] Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) began a pilot program on May 1 in Dallas, Texas, to create a process for full implementation,” the agency said in a statement provided to the DCNF.
ICE officers will use DNA-sample collection kits provided by the FBI to swab the inside of an alien’s cheek and deliver the kit to the FBI Laboratory Division for processing. This DNA information will also be uploaded into the National DNA Index System, a nationwide database of DNA information, to verify if it matches with other crimes in the system.
“ICE is implementing measures to ensure that the collection of DNA is conducted properly, in accordance with protections for an individual’s privacy, and that all records and data are retained and disposed of in compliance with federal law and policy,” the agency added.
Politico first reported on the implementation of the pilot program.
Not everyone will be subject to DNA collection. ICE will not gather DNA from any individuals 13 or younger — adhering to longstanding DHS policy that prohibits fingerprint collection of anyone in that age group. Legal permanent residents are also exempt from the pilot program.
The program puts DHS one step closer to a large-scale DNA collection of illegal aliens arrested by its agents, bringing to fruition a 15-year-old law that has yet to fully materialize.
Congress passed the DNA Fingerprint Act in 2005, directing DHS to collect DNA information of undocumented aliens arrested by its agents. However, the law was never fully implemented due to pushback from DHS. Namely, officials argued that the rules were overly burdensome and not properly funded.
After whistleblower complaints and pushback from the Department of Justice, the Trump administration has begun to implement the 2005 law. The ICE pilot program in Dallas is anticipated to pave the way for a much larger scale collection effort down the road.
ICE’s efforts came months after Customs and Border Protection (CBP), another agency within DHS, has already launched a pilot program to collect DNA samples from aliens arrested by CBP and Border Patrol officers.
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Jason Hopkins is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.