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Immigrants subject to DNA samples

January 8, 2009 |  2:36 pm

More often than not, the advantages of genetic testing aren't so clear-cut

Beginning Friday, the U.S. government will collect DNA samples from immigrants arrested and detained, despite concerns that the move violates their privacy rights.

The new Department of Justice policy also will expand DNA collection to people arrested on suspicion of committing federal crimes. Previously, the government obtained DNA from only people convicted of certain crimes.

The samples will be added to the national database and used to make identifications through comparisons with crime scene evidence, according to the Justice Department.

“The collection of DNA samples is an important crime-fighting and crime-solving tool,” said Evan Peterson, spokesman for the department.

The American Civil Liberties Union said today it was considering filing a lawsuit and that it would closely monitor the additional collection of DNA samples. “We will be looking to see whether mistakes are made,” said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU’s technology and liberty program.

Steinhardt said he had “grave concerns” about the rapid expansion of the DNA database to include immigrant detainees and people accused of committing crimes.

DNA is becoming a standard law enforcement tool that is better than fingerprints for identification, Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said today.

“It’s especially important with regard to immigration because people are changing their names and presenting easily forged foreign documents,” he said.

More than 1.3 million samples from immigrants, detainees and federal arrestees are expected to be added to the database under the new policy, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI received additional funds to upgrade its DNA programs and software to accommodate the increased workload.

-- Anna Gorman

Read the full story on the policy.

Photo:  More often than not, the advantages of genetic testing aren't so clear-cut. Credit: Elise Amendola / Associated Press

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