Trump administration wants to take DNA at the border to try to prove families are fake


Customs and Border Protection wants to take DNA from everyone that crosses the border. It's both racist and a privacy nightmare.

The Trump team is currently circulating a rule that would allow it to collect DNA from undocumented immigrants at the border. It's a spectacular, unwarranted invasion of privacy. It also discomfitingly evokes the Nazi era and the tracking of Jewish people throughout that time.

On Thursday, Buzzfeed reported that they had seen the draft rule, which says that the administration wants to allow Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to collect DNA from any undocumented immigrants it has in custody. A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official confirmed that they were "working closely with the Department of Justice on a path forward for DNA collection."

Up until now, CBP has been barred from collecting DNA from people who weren't facing criminal charges and people facing deportation. The proposed rule gets rid of that barrier. This means the administration could collect DNA from anyone that crosses the border, including unaccompanied minors and people who properly present to seek asylum.

The administration is interested in DNA collection because of its belief that the families who cross the border are "fake" — comprised of unrelated individuals who are posing as families to gain asylum. They have made much of the fact that of 84 families they decided showed "indicia of fraud," 19% of those were determined to be comprised of non-biologically related individuals. What they fail to mention, however, is that those 84 families weren't chosen at random. They were selected specifically because they were already suspected to be fraudulent based on non-DNA means. So, it's inaccurate to say that previous DNA testing has shown a high rate of unrelated families. That 19% must be measured against all the individuals who cross the border, not the 84 families tested.

This isn't the first time U.S. authorities have relied on genetic testing to regulate immigration. The country did it on a large scale during the Cold War, testing thousands of Chinese immigrants who claimed to be the children of Chinese-American fathers because the government believed these were "paper sons" — people lying about their kinship. It was a racist and exclusionary policy back then too, ignoring that the tests had a high rate of error, as well as ignoring that kinship bonds in Chinese culture are not necessarily biological. The policy was also not applied to non-Chinese immigrants in the same fashion.

This also hearkens back to the actions of the Nazis during World War II. Then, Germany contracted with U.S.-based IBM, which provided a punch-card system to help Nazis "organize, systematize, and accelerate Hitler’s anti-Jewish program." The Trump team is proposing to build a DNA database of people it has already indicated it finds undesirable, which feels eerily similar to that IBM program.

This is just another chilling example of how this administration is willing to undermine privacy and human rights in its racist quest to stop immigration from people Trump doesn't like.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.