Forced DNA collection could soon become reality in immigrant detention centers.
The Trump administration has outlined plans to forcibly take DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people living in detention centers without their consent. These plans, if implemented, would threaten the privacy rights and civil liberties of immigrants. They would treat immigrants as threats to our security instead of as people seeking a better life. And they would set a dangerous precedent for the future, enabling mass government surveillance.
It’s up to us to stop these dangerous plans.
Throughout history, the government has often tried to normalize new surveillance technologies by testing them on vulnerable communities and imposing initial restrictions on how any information collected will be used. The government inevitably expands those technologies beyond their original purposes. That’s why DOJ’s new rule could have wide repercussions for everyone in this country — not only those in immigrant detention sites.
The administration has already proposed an expanded “public charge” rule that would restrict the ability of immigrants to permanently settle in the country if they’re deemed likely to need certain forms of public assistance, which could include healthcare. What if, in the future, the government were to use the genetic information it collects to make these determinations? Or imagine a world in which the government tracked our every movement using the DNA we can’t help but leave behind on every cup or tissue we use. Local police are already tracking protesters by swabbing cigarette butts left behind at protest sites and allowing the collection of DNA from more people only increases the potential for such tracking.