By Heidi Rand; Ann G. Daniels contributed to this article

Deadline: Submit your comment by November 12, 2019 –

The Trump Department of (In)justice has unveiled yet another plan that targets the vulnerable immigrant community: this time, a rule to require the Department of Homeland Security to forcibly take DNA from immigrants in detention centers. The proposed regulation changes current implementation of the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005, removing the DHS Secretary’s discretion to opt out of taking DNA from migrant detainees “because of operational exigencies or resource limitations.” DNA taken from asylum seekers and other detained migrants, with or without consent, would be added to a massive FBI database.

The 2005 Act allows DNA to be taken from both U.S. citizens and non-citizens, with one crucial difference: U.S. citizens must be arrested for or charged with or convicted of a crime, while non-citizens – immigrants – need only be detained by a federal agency, under either civil or criminal authority. In other words: DNA can be forcibly be taken from immigrants in detention even if they’re not charged with any crime.

Speak out to decry this intrusive plan that could affect more than 740,000 people every year. Your voice is needed – to date fewer than 100 comments have been filed. Read on to learn how to make your comment.

What you can do:

Leave a comment on this form on the Federal Register website by November 12, 2019

What to say:

We’ve got suggestions, but multiple identical comments may be discarded, so make your comment as effective as possible by writing in your own voice and emphasize what’s important to you, or describe how the policy would affect your own life and community. You can get more ideas from the comments other people have filed.

  • The proposed rule violates human rights laws and raises significant privacy concerns for vulnerable populations, including asylum seekers, non-criminal detainees, those intending to immigrate, and non-immigrant visa holders and students.
  • The rule change brands migrants in federal custody as criminal, even if they aren’t in detention for any criminal activity or charged with any criminal activity, and gathers private information that can be used against them.
  • This rule unfairly treats asylum seekers and other undocumented immigrants like criminals, even if they have not been charged with any criminal activity. U.S. citizens can only have DNA taken from them if they’ve been charged with or convicted of a crime.
  • The proposed rule treats people seeking a better life or safety as threats to this country’s security.
  • This rule is an excuse to enable DHS to turn civil immigration detention into a proxy to strip these individuals of their privacy rights.
  • This is a waste of resources. As fingerprints and a thorough background check are already required, an additional invasive DNA check is unnecessary and redundant.

Finally, the ACLU is circulating a petition against this plan. You could also adapt their wording: 

Reject any policy change allowing the forced collection of DNA from immigrants in detention sites without their consent. This would hinder the privacy of immigrants and their families and set a dangerous precedent for the future, enabling mass government surveillance. 


Graphic: “DNA Double Helix,” National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health.

Heidi Rand fights the evil empire with skills gained as a Ninth Circuit staff attorney and civil rights lawyer, using words to resist, and to inform and inspire others to take action. She also wields a mean camera and knitting needles, though not at the same time.

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

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