Collecting DNA of detained immigrants is unethical

The U.S. Government plans to collect DNA of detained immigrants for an F.B.I. database.


Raymundo Varela-Urizar came to the United States with his mother as a two-year-old on a visitor visa and overstayed its validity, which labeled him an undocumented immigrant.

“The only way for me to get a green card to go from Mexico to the U.S. was if I had a relative that is a U.S. citizen,” said Varela-Urizar, a junior media studies and production major. “I had no choice but to cross the border and just stay. People ask me why don’t I just become a citizen and do it the proper way, but there is no proper way.”

Varela-Urizar is currently protected under Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals, an immigration policy allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation.

Not every undocumented immigrant is that lucky though. Varela-Urizar’s uncle was deported to Mexico in January, under President Donald Trump’s toughening immigration policies.

On Oct. 2, the immigrant community was attacked by Trump’s administration yet again — this time with a proposal to collect DNA of detained immigrants If enforced, this measure would feed the FBI database with thousands of records, mainly limited to DNA collected from people who have been arrested, charged or convicted of serious crimes up until now, The New York Times reported. 

It is yet another wrongful attack on the undocumented community and a false accusation by Trump, claiming immigrants commit more crime and are a danger to the country.

“To put someone, who is just trying to provide for their family, someone who is trying to bring better opportunities to future generations, in the same category as murderers, as thieves, is inhumane,” said Emily Gillam, a junior psychology and neuroscience major and president of the Asociación de Estudiantes Latinos, Latino umbrella organization on Temple’s campus.

The act is based on an existing law called the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005, amending the original DNA Identification Act of 1994 and repealing the prohibition of DNA collection from arrestees who have not been charged with a crime, as defined by the U.S. Congress records. Immigrants have been exempt from this act up until now, which is what Trump’s administration is trying to change, The New York Times reported.

Out of the 10.5 million undocumented immigrants estimated by a Pew Research study in 2017, as many as 52,000 detained in jails across the country, “an apparent all-time record” under Trump’s administration, Buzzfeed News reported earlier this year, calling it a humanitarian crisis. It further reported that under former President Barack Obama’s administration the number was around 35,000.

“Detention is a funky kind of a thing,” said Jonathan Grode, an instructor at the Beasley School of Law, and a U.S. practice director at the Green and Spiegel LLC, an immigration law firm. ”It does not necessarily mean that you committed a crime or violated a law, it is another example of the Trump administration trying to push the envelope too far.”

The administration is doing everything in the name of security to curb people from immigrating to the U.S., Grode said.

“It is scary and problematic,” he added. “This one is troubling from the civil liberties perspective because you should not have to sequester your DNA if you are being simply detained on something that is not criminally based.”

Immigration actually helps reduce the average crime rate — or, in some cases, doesn’t have any relationship to it at all, with a consistent pattern between 1980 and 2016, when population and crime did not grow the same, according to a large-scale study published in Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice in 2015.

Undocumented immigrants are less crime-prone than native-born because they are vulnerable to the possibility of deportation, the American Immigration Council reported.

To put it simply, Trump is drawing an imaginary and fabricated correlation.

Trump’s immigration policies are often senseless and harmful but the newest proposal is also unethical and could have implications on immigrants’ relatives, whether immigrants or U.S. citizens because DNA allows drawing connections among individuals. It violates privacy and labels immigrants as criminals, although their only wrongdoing often is being undocumented.

“The issue that nobody is really talking about is that we don’t have a mechanism for these people to come here legally in the first place,” Grode said. “We don’t have a dishwasher visa, we don’t have a meat-packer visa, so these people enter illegally.”

“I think in 100 years, people will look back on the way we treated immigrants and it will be viewed as heinous as Japanese internment camps during World War II,” Grode added. “The best way we can change this is by getting up and voting and expressing our opinion.”

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