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Border patrol to expand DNA collection of certain illegal immigrants nationwide

DNA collections were required by law passed by Congress in 2005, but the Obama administration granted an exemption to stop CPB from complying. The Trump administration has reversed the exemption.

Updated: December 6, 2020 - 10:50pm

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is expanding nationwide its efforts to collect DNA samples from certain illegal immigrants suspected of crimes and plans to complete the process by month's end, well ahead of its deadline.

"This aggressive timeline represents a strong commitment by CBP to implement collection under this law, well ahead of the 3 years contemplated by the rule," the agency said.

The DNA collections were authorized by the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005 passed by Congress in early 2006, which required CBP to gather DNA from individuals who are arrested, facing criminal charges or convicted, and from non-U.S. individuals who are detained under federal authority. The samples are supposed to be added to the FBI database known as the Combined DNA Index System or CODIS.

Under the Obama administration, however, CBP was granted an exemption from complying with the law by claiming "operational exigencies or resource limitations."

The Trump Justice Department eliminated that exemption earlier this year, and CBP began a pilot program in January to begin the legally required DNA collections.

"The pilot programs that began in January have provided the information CBP needed to successfully meet its legal requirements for nationwide collection," the agency said last week. "CBP has rolled out the collection program more broadly in monthly phases and will reach full operation by Dec. 31, 2020."

Border patrol agents now will collect DNA samples from non-U.S. citizens between the ages of 14 and 79 who have been detained under federal law and from U.S. citizens and lawfully admitted residents arrested by CBP and facing federal charges.

The agency said it won't collect DNA from immigrants who:

  • have been legally admitted to the United States or are being processed for lawful admission;
  • are being held at a port of entry during consideration of admissibility and not subject to further legal proceedings;
  • are being held in connection with maritime interdiction 
  • who already have a DNA profile in the CODIS database.

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