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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

DNA sampling of migrants is inhumane, unjust

Trump administrations denies migrants a shred of human dignity

Between impeachment inquiries, elections and cease-fires, it may be easy to find oneself distracted by the political turmoil currently unfolding within the U.S. It is, however, important to remember that the crisis at the Southern Border is far from over.

Tensions between the Trump Administration and asylum seekers appear to be at an all time high, evident through recent reports of gross mistreatment both at detention centers and beyond. Just because the migration crisis has persisted for years does not mean that it should be forgotten about or deemed as “old news” — if anything, its continuance should serve as a reminder that a solution is far overdue.

In one of his more outrageous decisions, Attorney General William Barr issued a ruling on Oct. 15 that allows all “relevant” federal agencies to collect DNA samples from individuals who are “detained under the authority of the United States.” Legal permanent residents and those legally seeking U.S. citizenship will not be affected — however, this decision poses great concern for an estimated 748,000 individuals. The Department of Justice’s proposed rule is subject to a 20-day comment period, which ends today. 

The samples will be added to an extensive FBI database, which already contains the genetic information of 17.7 million individuals who were either convicted of a crime or arrested. President Donald Trump, in his presidential campaign announcement speech, made a widely-criticized statement asserting that migrants attempting to cross the Mexican-American border were convicts, drug dealers and rapists. He has since backtracked on this claim, yet anti-migrant sentiment still runs rampant in his administration, and this new ruling does nothing but reinforce it.  

By collecting these samples, the Trump Administration is sending a clear message that it has little to no faith in the character of asylum-seekers, and is perpetuating the false notion that a large proportion of migrants are criminals. These individuals have not been convicted of any crimes — forcing a swab into their mouths, however, essentially asserts that they either have been or will be. 

The Editorial Board not only believes this is an egregious violation of the presumption of innocence, but also of one’s privacy. DNA is a highly sensitive identifier, and should only be extracted with explicit consent or under extreme circumstances. Forcing detainees into surrendering their personal physical information is a clear violation of bodily autonomy. 

Yet another extreme violation of privacy includes the 28-page spreadsheet that the Trump Administration used to keep track of migrant girls’ menstrual cycles while they were in custody. The tracking was done specifically by Scott Lloyd, then-director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement and infamous anti-abortion activist. Unsurprisingly, Lloyd was removed from his position when it was reported that he obstructed pregnant migrant minors from obtaining abortions. 

The list of offenses does not stop there, it ranges from making migrant children eligible for adoption to maintaining inhumane conditions at border detention centers — all of which are frankly, if not obviously a continued embarrassment for the country. The administration’s behavior toward those seeking a new life in America is immoral, yet all the while unsurprising considering the list of chronic atrocities the president has tallied up during his tenure at the White House. 

For the miniscule amount of humanity and respect shown to asylum-seekers, the government sure seems to care a whole lot about migrants’ personal information. Political views aside, we all must empathize with and condemn the appalling treatment that these human beings, just like us, are facing. America claims to be a nation dedicated to upholding human rights and promoting new beginnings — and it’s about time we start acting like it.

Written by: The Editorial Board


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