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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

U.S. to collect DNA samples of arrested immigrants

Beginning today, the U.S. government will collect DNA samples from people arrested and detained for suspected immigration violations, despite concerns that the move violates their privacy rights.

The new Justice Department policy also will expand DNA collection to people arrested on suspicion of committing federal crimes. Previously, the government only obtained DNA from people convicted of certain crimes.

The samples will be added to the national database and used to make identifications through comparisons with crime scene evidence, according to the Justice Department.

"The collection of DNA samples is an important crime-fighting and crime-solving tool," said Evan Peterson, a spokesman for the department.

The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday that it was considering filing a lawsuit and that it would closely monitor the collection of DNA samples.
"We will be looking to see whether mistakes are made," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's technology and liberty program.

Steinhardt said he had "grave concerns" about the rapid expansion of the DNA database to include immigrant detainees and people accused of committing crimes.

"People who are merely accused of a crime or a civil violation of law but haven't been convicted of anything are being subjected to the most invasive sort of testing," he said.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) has said the change is designed to prevent violent crimes by deportees who return illegally. Kyl wrote a 2005 law that authorized the department to include pre-conviction DNA samples in its national database. [Mark Godsey]
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