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CBP to submit detained foreigners’ DNA to FBI biometric database by year-end

Pilot completed successfully


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) now has the information it needs to meet its legal requirements for collecting DNA samples from people in custody and sharing them with the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) biometric database.

The Department of Homeland Services (DHS), which includes CBP, has been exempt from a mandate to collect DNA supplied by the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005, due to operational or resource limitations, according to the announcement. Under the Act, CBP is directed to collect DNA from anyone arrested, facing criminal charges, or convicted of a crime, as well as non-U.S. citizens detained under federal authority.

CBP began a pilot program in January of 2020 to assess the impact of proposed changes on its operations. Then in March, the Department of Justice eliminated DHS’ discretion to collect DNA with the publication of a final rule, providing a three-year grace period from April 8, 2020.

With the pilot concluded, the agency has begun rolling out the collection program in monthly phases, and expects to meet its obligation for full operation by December 31, 2020.

Border Patrol collects DNA from detained non-U.S. citizens and from lawfully admitted permanent residents arrested and charged with federal crimes between 14 and 79 years old.

CBP will not collect DNA from foreigners being processed for lawful admission to the U.S., those held during the admissions process who are not subject to further proceedings, aliens held in relation to “maritime interdiction,” or those who already have profiles within CODIS. The agency further states that it will not use the DNA samples for any other purpose than that specified in 34 U.S.C. § 40702(a)(1)(A), and CBP does not retain any of the data.

The border agency has also submitted a rule-making proposal for its biometric entry/exit system, which would eliminate the option to forego biometric checks and the age restrictions on biometrics collection.

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