Starting today, the branch of the Department of Homeland Security will start collecting DNA from people it detains at the U.S. border. And yes, according to a privacy impact assessment published by DHS, kids as young as 14 are subject to the new program.
The agency, asserts the DHS, will only collect DNA from people who are in custody and “subject to fingerprinting.” This means that, should you be fortunate enough to breeze through the border as a U.S. citizen, your DNA will not be added to the FBI-maintained database where the records will end up.
However, should you be snagged in the nightmare that is CBP detention — like other U.S. citizens were just this past weekend — you won’t be so lucky.
The collection of DNA at the border starts off as a pilot program, notes the above-linked privacy impact assessment, and includes five phases we will theoretically be subjected to over the course of the next three years. The Associated Press reports that the program will kick off in Detroit and at the Eagle Pass, Texas, port of entry.
It is slated to eventually span the entire nation.
The government is aware of various privacy risks associated with its plan, which are detailed within its assessment. Some of which, it should be noted, are rather chilling.
“There is a risk that individuals whose DNA sample is collected while the individuals are children will not be aware that their DNA profile will remain on file with FBI in perpetuity,” notes the impact assessment.
And there’s more. “There is a risk of over collection of information,” continues the document, “particularly from young children, who could not have committed any crimes for which to match against.”
Thankfully, the document assures us, “CBP does not categorically fingerprint individuals under the age of 14, and therefore will not be collecting DNA samples, but has the discretion to do so in potentially criminal situations.”
There, don’t you feel better already? Well, according to American Civili Liberties Union attorney Stephen Kang, you shouldn’t.
Kang told the Associated Press that he wondered if the government is creating “a DNA bank of immigrants that have come through custody for no clear reason,” and added that “it raises a lot of very serious, practical concerns, I think, and real questions about coercion.”
It definitely does.
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