THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION has started forcibly collecting DNA samples from immigrants in detention and sending that information to an FBI criminal database called the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) for permanent storage. Officials say this is a crime-fighting move. In reality, it is mass surveillance.
In 2005, Congress passed the DNA Fingerprint Act, requiring genetic testing of anyone arrested for a federal crime, regardless of whether they're eventually charged and convicted. The Supreme Court approved this gross invasion of individual privacy in Maryland, v. King (2013), ruling 5-4 that the law did not violate constitutional protections against illegal searches and seizures because the original arrest had required probable cause.
The DNA Fingerprint Act gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) latitude to exempt noncitizens from being sampled. There's a very good reason for that: The vast majority of these folks are detained not because they have committed serious crimes with actual victims but because a harsh Clinton-era enforcement law vastly increased detentions for nonviolent immigration-related offenses. The Obama administration used this latitude to exempt immigrants from DNA sampling unless they were charged with another crime or were awaiting deportation proceedings. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano pointed out at the time that taking DNA from the 30,000 immigrants who were then detained would pose "severe organizational, resource and financial challenges"--not to mention distract from actual crime-fighting.
The detained population has...