Tues – 11/12: Do it for immigrants. Do it for yourself. Write a comment against the enforced DNA sampling of immigrants. Deadline tonight, 11:59 pm EST.

  • Quote by Molly Ivens in 2003 Scripps College Commencement address.
  • Quote by German professor 7 years after WWII 

Action – Write a comment against the further criminalization of immigrants as well as the degradation of the assumption of innocence for all Americans. – Due tonight, 11/12, 11:59 pm EST.

Tonight, comments are due on an insidious proposal from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to amend regulations to remove an exemption that prevented their agents from collecting DNA samples from individuals who are arrested, facing charges, or convicted, and from non-United States persons who are detained under the authority of the United States. Exemptions from the DNA mandate include children age 13 and younger, legal permanent residents, and people entering the country legally.  This invasion of the essential privacy of non-violent people would be done in the name of “public safety”, a well of civil rights violations for which there is no bottom.

  • Comment here.
  • Read their summary here. Read their complete proposal here.
  • Inspiration here. If you’re having trouble getting started, cruise through other’s comments. DO NOT COPY. All identical comments will be culled, so channel your high school creative writing classes.

So what’s the big deal about swabbing immigrants for DNA and why should I care about it?

Let’s take a moment and talk about government data bases.

(ACLU) “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.

But more data equals more public safety, right? “…mass collection alters the purpose of DNA collection from one of criminal investigation basically to population surveillance, which is basically contrary to our basic notions of a free, trusting, autonomous society,” Vera Eidelman, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, told New York Times when news of the mandate first came out.

Mitra Ebadolahi, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, believes that this would drastically expand how DNA is being used on non-criminal populations. Although the government hasn’t consigned all our DNA to CODIS yet, we need to remain watchful.

  • In just the last decade, Customs and Border Protection drones use has expanded well beyond their initial purpose of security enforcement at the border.
  • Similarly, border officers now conduct warrantless searches of our cellphones and laptops — a practice the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation are challenging in court — for reasons outside their mandate of immigration and customs enforcement.
  • Cellphone trackers, also known as “Stingrays,” were first used as a counter-intelligence and military technique, but law enforcement officers, including local police, now use them in routine investigations.
  • Facial recognition is already recognized as a threat to civil liberty. AB-1215, a CA law regulating facial recognition technology when paired with law enforcement body cameras, was signed into law this year.
  • Local law enforcement officers have already tried to track anti-pipeline protesters by swabbing cigarette butts left behind at protest sites.
  • In less than a decade, law enforcement have gone from collecting DNA from convicted sex offenders — on the theory that they are likely to be recidivists and that they frequently leave biological evidence — to data banks of all violent offenders; to juvenile offenders in 29 states; to testing of persons who have been arrested, but not convicted of a crime.
  • Many states have loose statuatory restrictions on access to forensic DNA. Right now, there is just an interim federal policy regarding access to genetic genealogy information.
  • Remember, complying with actions that assume you are a potential suspect is all for public safety!  Where will you draw the line?
    • If the government increases REAL ID information demands to start including DNA samples for their date base?
    • How about if they decide that we need to get swabbed for the database along with our tax returns, or at birth?
    • What if all employers were able to see everything about you, including health issues of relatives and the likelihood of you contracting thousands of genetic conditions and diseases? A 1997 survey conducted by the American Management Association found that six to ten percent of responding employers (well over 6,000 companies) used genetic testing for employment purposes. Having DNA entered into the FBI’s CODIS system will also send up red flags for potential employers without any explanation of why it’s there.
  • Our government has already engaged in wrongful behavior towards people based on their actual or perceived genetic composition — from forcing sterilizations to prohibiting marriages to refusing to allow healthy individuals to engage in Air Force training.

OK, now let’s talk about how “public safety” and immigrants are related or –  “Just the fact, ma’m.”

But first, you need to create a Ministry of Fear

Combating immigration was the number-one issue during Trump’s presidential campaign, and since he has taken office, this has been an arena in which he has arguably been most productive, as far as succeeding in turning his rhetoric into policies that have affected the lives of millions of people… (Tanvi Misra)

He has :

OK – now let’s talk public safety… 

The core of Trump’s argument is that a wall is needed because there’s a flood of immigrants illegally crossing the border, driving up crime and violence in cities nationwide. It’s such a foundational assertion that even foes of the president often don’t pause to think critically about it any longer; instead, they get tied up debating logistical and cost-related points.”  (Tanvi Misra)

  • Are large numbers of migrants crossing the border?
    • Illegal immigration is the lowest it has been in over a decade. But a record number of families with children are crossing the border and turning themselves in to Border Patrol, in order to claim asylum: Border Patrol’s apprehension numbers for financial year 2019 show that uptick.” The administration wants to put millions of dollars into DNA sampling people, not providing the humanitarian help that’s required.
  • Do immigrants cause crime?
    • There are always some people who engage in criminal behavior. However  a review of available research does not support the claim that migrants are more likely to engage in criminal behavior than native-born Americans. As has been repeated many times, researchers have confirmed the opposite relationship.
    • Two Cato Institute reports found that legal residents and undocumented immigrants were less likely to be incarcerated that native-born Americans and that in Texas in 2015, undocumented immigrants had a criminal conviction rate 50 percent below that of native-born Americans.
  • What about all those undocumented people in federal prison?
    • Non-citizens make up around 22 percent of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) population. But, as the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Cristobal Ramón points out in a blog post, that population includes those whose immigration offenses have been prosecuted as federal crimes.
  • And cities with large immigrant populations—are they more likely to be ridden with crime and violence?
    • (Look here for the whole list of studies)
    • Researchers from four universities came together to analyze the immigration rate and crime in 200 big and small metro areas between 1970 and 2010. Their findings showed that where immigration grew, violent and property crime generally decreased. The Marshall Project extended that data to 2016 in a collaboration with the New York Times; the findings held.
    • In 2010, sociologist Tim Wadsworth examined immigration, robbery, and homicide in 459 U.S. cities between 1990 and 2000. Places with greater increases in new immigrants saw the largest drop in these types of crime during this time, his study found.
  • What about in border cities? Trump said El Paso was really dangerous until they got a wall.
    • In Texas, all the state’s border communities have the some of the lowest crime rates compared to similar cities, despite their proximity to the “dangerous” Mexican border, The Texas Tribune reports.
    • researchers analyzed homicide rates in Miami, San Diego, and El Paso—three cities abutting a contiguous U.S. boundary that saw influxes of immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s. They found “either no relationship or a significant negative relationship between homicide and recent immigration.”
  • What about refugees—do they cause crime? What about in “Sanctuary cities”?
    • Until Trump took office, the US led the world in refugee resettlement. But according to an analysis by New American Economy (NAE), a bipartisan group advocating for immigration reform, the 10 cities that received the most refugees in the last ten years saw drops in crime—sometimes, dramatic ones.
    • The Immigration Policy Lab, a migration research organization, analyzed county-level crime rates after Trump’s policy changes caused a huge drop in refugee resettlement in 2017. The researchers observed no significant changes.
    • In several studies ( Urban Affairs ReviewCollingwood Research Researchgate, city lab) researchers analyzed crime data and found that, first, crime did not increase in cities after they put in place sanctuary policies, and second, that these policies had no effect on the rates of violent crime, property crime, and rape in sanctuary cities compared to others.

OK, let’s now talk about  about “Crimmigration”- our history of border relations, immigration law. and what the DOJ is up to now.

  • Crimmigration” is the intertwining of immigration and criminal law.
  • 1929: As the video above stated, migration back and forth over the border went mostly unchecked until 1929, when a white supremacist senator named Coleman Livingston Blease helped pass Section 1325.  This law didn’t cap numbers like other immigration bills, but criminalized those who didn’t cross the border through an official entry point, where they had to pay a fee and submit to tests.
  • And let’s make it really hard:These entry points were far apart from each other, and for various reasons many immigrants continued crossing the border in the same manner that U.S. and Mexican citizens had both done for many decades. “Entry fees were prohibitively high for many Mexican workers,” writes historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez for The Conversation. “Moreover, U.S. authorities subjected Mexican immigrants, in particular, to kerosene baths and humiliating delousing procedures because they believed Mexican immigrants carried disease and filth on their bodies.
  • It’s now a crime: Those caught crossing elsewhere could be charged with a federal misdemeanor on the first offense, and a felony on the second. Both charges could result in fines or prison time. And although the law applied to all immigrants, the intent was to restrict immigration from Mexico. In the first ten years, 44,000 immigrants were prosecuted under this law.
  • But that’s not all we did: Between then and now, America participated in two brutal forced “repatriations”. During the Great Depression, the United States forcibly removed up to a million people of Mexican descent from the country, of whom approximately 60 percent were American citizens. The second one was in the 1950’s under Eisenhower, in which 1.3 million people were deported in what is called the largest mass deportation in American history , the number including 300,000 American citizens.
  • Reagan, despite his video, was not good to immigrants: Although his Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA or the Simpson–Mazzoli Act ) legalized most immigrants that arrived in the country prior to Jan. 1, 1982, non-citizens increasingly faced a risk of deportation if they committed small offenses; simultaneously, illegal migration—crossing the border unauthorized or reentering after being deported—was more harshly prosecuted. This is when the term “criminal alien” was introduced.
  • Clinton was not great either: In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IRIRA) under Clinton did the following:
    • It eliminated due process from the overwhelming majority of removal cases on the basis that immigration control is a civil, or administrative, legal power not subject to robust challenge in the courts, in an effort to speed up the deportation process.
    • curtailed equitable relief from removal,
    • mandated detention (without individualized custody determinations) for broad swaths of those facing deportation, and erected insurmountable, technical roadblocks to asylum.
    • IRIRA combined the former “deportation proceedings” and “exclusion proceedings” into a single removal proceedings. Those two trends together have led to a system that emphasizes imprisonment and removal and tags offenders with criminal records.
    • Together with the Immigration and Nationality Act, the definition of  of aggravated felony was significantly altered. Offenses that qualified as an “aggravated felony” would now encompass a range of misdemeanors and minor offenses, crimes which are neither aggravated nor felonious — such as prostitution, undocumented entry after removal, drug addiction, shoplifting, failure to appear in court, filing a false tax return, as well as any crime warranting a sentence of one year or more.
    • The 1996 laws also included provisions to enlist local law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of immigration law

What Trump wants to do, since he can’t shoot them in the legs or fill a pit with alligators…

  • He wants to make them all criminals:
    • Trump signed two immigration-related executive orders (EOs) titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” and “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” that intensified criminalization of immigrants by allowing local law inforcement to participate in arrests and increased expedited removals.
    • Together, these EOs effectively criminalize all unauthorized immigrants present within the United States by deeming them priorities for removal while simultaneously expanding the immigration enforcement apparatus.
    •  He’s created an illegal policy that force immigrants to remain in dangerous areas of Mexico while waiting for their spot in line, forcing many desperate families to risk entering the US outside the official entry points.
    • Many of the people now being criminally prosecuted for illegal entry and reentry have no criminal history or were convicted in the past of only minor, nonviolent crimes.
  • He wants to force these new “criminals” to submit to DNA sampling. 
    • The government estimates that, at current levels, requiring DNA samples from everyone in immigration detention would add 748,000 profiles to CODIS each year. That’s more profiles per year than the entire state of New York has contributed to CODIS in more than 20 years. And, because DNA exposes sensitive information about family members, this collection would also implicate the relatives of those in detention, including U.S. citizens and relatives who haven’t even been born. The DNA samples themselves would be stored indefinitely by forensic laboratories.
    • In effect, the government is taking a big step toward a mass database for full population surveillance. And it is achieving this by miscasting the hundreds of thousands of children and adults in immigration detention as threats to the country’s security.
    • “The new proposal would funnel potentially thousands of new records to the FBI…for people who have not been arrested, convicted, or charged with serious crimes, (this) alters DNA collection from a criminal investigation tool, deeply problematic as it may be, to a population surveillance tool, a much broader range of people are going to be scooped up as part of this expansion. And we feel that’s basically contrary to fundamental notions of a free society.” Ebadolahi told KPBS.
    • Henry Sias, a Philadelphia-based civil rights lawyer who represents asylum-seekers argues that taking a person’s DNA information before they are convicted of crossing the border illegally is a privacy violation that turns the criminal justice system on its head.”It’s a conflation of immigration status with criminal activity, which is contributing to a guilty until proven innocent atmosphere,” Sias said.
    • This proposed change in policy is extraordinary in its breadth and transparent with its xenophobic goals,” Naureen Shah, the ACLU’s senior advocacy and policy counsel, said in a statement.
    • The advocates warned that United States citizens, who are sometimes accidentally booked into immigration custody, could also be forced to provide DNA samples.

They say that this will cost 13 million dollars. Hah! Trump’s GOLFING has cost us approximately $110 million dollars.

Better uses of the money.

  • More judges.
  • More lawyers
  • More translators
  • More humanitarian aid.
  • Funding proven alternatives to detention.
  • Investing in better employees who don’t sexually assault women and children.
  • Soap, diapers, women’s hygiene products, toothpaste, (Associated Press).
  • Facilities where people can turn off lights to sleep. (thinkprogress)
  • medical care, flu shots, preventing more kids from dying.
  • Using DNA to reunite families with children that we lost.
  • Fund completing rape kits. We know criminals are represented there.
  • Add more personel to domestic terrorism task forces.
  • Printing up citizenship certificates for a lot of peaceful people who’ve lived productively amongst us as neighbors, along with ALL the DACA recipients. A 2015 study found that the legalization of three million immigrants reduced crime by 3-5%, primarily property crime. The author asserts that this is due to greater job market opportunities for the citizens.

So let’s just talk about DNA for a minute.

Yes, DNA has been used both to exonerate and convict people. But it’s not perfect. This list of caveats is from a study of the UK’s nation DNA database. The “Yay, let’s do this” arguments are freedom from crime, which assumes that all crimes involve DNA evidence, and the speed of catching and convicting the small number of people who are violent criminals.

  • Is a national DNA database useful for police investigating crimes?
    • There is little evidence to support that more crimes would be solved if a national DNA database is extended to contain samples from people who have not previously been convicted of a crime.
    • If a national DNA database contains more samples it may increase the possibility of false matches being made and innocent people being arrested.
    • Because samples are stored and compared against DNA collected at crime scenes, police may be more likely to pursue crimes committed by members of overrepresented groups. This may lead to discrimination while underrepresented groups may more easily evade detection.
    • If police can’t find a database match for DNA taken from a crime scene, they may then look at partial DNA matches. This could lead to innocent relatives of criminals being wrongfully pursued for a crime.
  • Does having a national DNA database help eliminate discrimination?
    • At one time, the UK National DNA Database contained genetic information from around one million people who had not been convicted of a crime, and about half a million from juveniles. As a consequence, specific groups, such as young people and black men, made up an unequal number of those included on the UK National DNA Database.
    • Individuals on the DNA database may be seen as potential offenders rather than law abiding citizens. If the database is extended beyond just convicted criminals, everyone would be seen as possible suspects.
    • DNA records are linked to other computer records such as records of arrest, which can be used to refuse someone a visa or job. This opens up the potential for discrimination.
  • Is keeping a national DNA database financially viable?
    • Maintaining a DNA database is hugely expensive. The staff, facilities and equipment used to process and manage DNA samples costs large amounts of money.
    • Expanding the DNA database to include a DNA sample from everyone in the country would require a lot of additional investment of taxpayers money.
  • Do national CNA databases take into consideration an individual’s human rights?
    • Keeping a DNA database is seen by many as a further infringement of privacy and human rights.
    • It is debatable whether the benefits to society of having a national DNA database outweighs an individual’s right to privacy.
  • Is the privacy of the individuals on a national DNA database protected?
    • Individuals who provide their own personal information to the private sector, do so voluntarily and usually in exchange for a service. An individual has no choice on whether their DNA sample is included in a national DNA database.
    • Currently there are no comprehensive privacy regulations that would prevent governments from sharing DNA profiles with other groups, such as insurance companies. (The US now has an interim federal policy)
    • DNA samples are rarely destroyed meaning that the information derived from a sample could potentially be accessed by anyone.
    • The information contained in DNA is limitless. Information about hair colour, eye colour and genetic diseases? can all be found in our DNA.
    • Who owns the genetic information and who controls what happens to it and how it is used? Who is responsible for the genetic information isn’t clear and is a cause for concern for individuals who have records on the database.
    • The 2008 Counter-Terrorism Act allows security personnel to ‘biologically’ track and identify individuals.
  • Is appropriate consent given for the details of individuals to be used for other purposes?
    • Surely the DNA itself is personally identifiable information? We can find out all kinds of personal data, from eye colour to risk of genetic disease, from our DNA.
    • Requests to access the database may be for purposes for which the data was never originally intended and therefore individual consent has, almost certainly, not been given.
    • Searching the DNA database for partial matches raises concerns for the privacy of the relatives of people who are on the database.
    • There is the potential for the information in the DNA database to be misused by the Government, security services, police forces or criminals. For example, it may reveal private information, such as paternity.
  • Is DNA forensic evidence accurate?
    • Errors in DNA testing occur relatively frequently.
    • It has been suggested that as many as one in every hundred forensic tests performed on the DNA of suspected criminals may give a false result.
    • False matches between an individual’s DNA profile and a crime scene DNA profile can occur by chance. Poor laboratory practices can lead to cross-contamination or mislabelling of samples, and test results can be misinterpretated.
    • DNA can be damaged by environmental factors such as heat, sunlight and bacteria. This may affect the accuracy of tests carried out.


  • Justice Department Announces Plan To Collect DNA From Migrants Crossing The Border (npr)
  • Privacy at risk: Trump plan to collect DNA from detained immigrants should alarm all of us (usatoday)
  • U.S. proposes collecting DNA samples from detained immigrants (reuters)
  • ACLU Says DNA Collection Of Immigrants Is ‘A Population Surveillance Tool’ (kpbs)Top Expert Backgrounder: Children in Immigration Detention — What are the International Norms? (justsecurity)
  • Immigrant detention conditions are inhumane according to UN military standards. (think progress)
  • DOJ rule gives green light to collect dna from asylum seekers. (gizmodo)
  • No forces DNA collection (aclu)
  • A judge said police can search the DNA of 1 million Americans without their consent (Science)
  • Making Immigrants into Criminals: Legal Processes of Criminalization in the Post-IIRIRA Era (sage pub)


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