CBP Begins Pilot Program to Collect DNA from Some Migrants

On January 6, 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) initiated a pilot program to assess the operational impact of proposed regulatory changes that would require the collection of DNA samples from certain individuals in CBP custody.  This “limited, small-scale pilot program” will last 90-days in only two locations: the U.S. Border Patrol in the Detroit Sector and the Office of Field Operations at the Eagle Pass Port of Entry in Southwestern Texas.  

In late October 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sought to amend regulations to mandate DNA collection for almost anyone detained, even temporarily, while crossing at official entry points.  This proposed amendment would significantly expand CBP officials’ power to collect DNA samples, which was previously only permitted for migrants prosecuted in federal court for criminal offenses.  Additionally, this proposed amendment would remove a provision that authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to exempt certain aliens from whom the collection of DNA samples was previously not feasible due to operational exigencies or resource limitations.  Further, it restores the Attorney General’s absolute legal authority to authorize and direct all relevant federal agencies to collect DNA samples from individuals who are arrested, facing charges, or convicted, and from non-U.S. persons who are detained under the authority of the United States. 

The pilot program which began earlier this week is intended to assess the operational impact of the amended regulation that requires the collection of DNA samples from certain individuals and the submission of those samples to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).  The regulation applies to any individuals who are arrested, face charges or are convicted (including U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents), as well as to non-U.S. persons detained under the authority of the U.S., including certain aliens in CBP custody.  For the U.S. Border Patrol, this will include individuals between the ages 14-79 who are apprehended and processed within the Detroit Sector.  For the Office of Field Operations, this will include individuals who present at the Eagle Pass Port of Entry for consideration of admissibility and are subject to further detention or proceedings.  

As we continue to monitor the implementation of this pilot program, be sure to contact Berardi Immigration Law if you have any questions or concerns about entering the United States.  Our attorneys are happy to discuss tips for smooth border crossing.