Things That Matter

Forced DNA Testing Could Be Another Injustice That Migrants Have To Endure Under New Trump Rule

As the number of migrants at the southern border has surged in the past several months, the Trump administration has turned to increasingly draconian measures as a form of deterrence. While the separation of children from their parents and housing of migrants in overcrowded and ill-equipped holding facilities have rightfully made front-page headlines, the administration’s latest effort—to conduct Rapid DNA testing on migrant families at the border—has flown under the radar. However, this new tactic presents serious privacy concerns about the collection of biometric information on one of the most vulnerable populations in the U.S. today—and raises questions of where this practice could lead.

Trump wants to expand the current DNA testing program far behind what most people would say is ethical.

The Trump administration wants to enable Customs and Border Protection officials to collect DNA samples from undocumented immigrants in its custody.

The move will likely inspire the anger of civil liberties and immigrant advocates, who argue that the government should not draw sensitive personal information from people without being tied to a specific crime.

The official noted an ICE pilot program at the southwest border earlier this year, in which the agency took voluntary DNA tests of those they suspected of fraudulently claiming to be families. “ICE has identified dozens of cases in which children had no familial relation to the adults accompanying them. In the first operation — Operation Double Helix 1.0 — 16 out of 84 family units were identified as fraudulent based on negative DNA results. And in the second — Operation Double Helix 2.0 — 79 of 522 family units were identified as fraudulent based on negative DNA results, to date,” the official said.

With Trump, it seems the cruelty is the point so where is all of this coming from?

In May 2019, CNN reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was launching a pilot program to conduct Rapid DNA testing on families at the U.S.-Mexico border. The purpose of the pilot program was to identify and prosecute individuals who were not related through a biological parent-child relationship. The pilot program was confirmed as a joint operation between ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at two locations at the border. The government contracted with ANDE, a Massachusetts-based Rapid DNA testing company, to conduct the Rapid DNA testing for the pilot program.

Later that month, ICE released a Request for Proposal seeking a contractor to expand the Rapid DNA testing program for ten months at seven locations at the U.S.-Mexico border. In mid-June, Bode Cellmark Forensics, Inc. was awarded the Rapid DNA testing expansion contract for $5.2 million.

The government started with voluntary DNA testing over a year ago.

Federal officials at the border have been performing voluntary DNA tests on migrants for more than a year in an attempt to reunited separated children with their families. But a new draft policy reveals the Trump administration wants to “expand” DNA testing by letting CBP “extract genetic material from undocumented immigrants in its custody.”

Proposed regulations are not immediately enacted and require a 60-day comment period.

Administration officials cite a statute — the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005 — that allows federal agencies to collect DNA from individuals in their custody, including those who are not American. But previous DOJ regulations exempted agencies under the Department of Homeland Security — including CBP and ICE — from conducting such collection in certain circumstances.

In 2010, then–DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano narrowed the exemption, saying people who were not detained on criminal charges and those who were awaiting deportation proceedings would not have their DNA collected.

The current draft proposal would cut the exception all together — opening it up to include people who are awaiting deportation and those who are not charged with a crime, such as undocumented immigrants, to the collection.

Civil liberties groups have long challenged the expansion of DNA collection from citizens and noncitizens alike.

”DNA collection programs allow the government to obtain sensitive and private information on a person without any precursor level of suspicion and without showing that the data collected is tied to a specific crime,” wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a statement on federal DNA collection. Federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI generally take DNA samples from arrestees.

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As Trump Rushes To Build More Border Wall Before The Election, Here’s A Timeline Of His Border Wall Failures

Things That Matter

As Trump Rushes To Build More Border Wall Before The Election, Here’s A Timeline Of His Border Wall Failures

Saul Loeb / Getty Images

With just 34 days to go until the election, Trump is in an all out mission to build as much border wall as he can. Throughout his 2016 campaign and his time in the White House, he has made his vanity project a key component in his identity as president.

He’s used it to ratchet up xenophobia and to implement his draconian immigration policies while also using it to build support among his die hard MAGA-loving supporters. But there’s just one problem: Trump has completely failed in his mission to deliver a border wall to his supporters.

Since the 2016 election, according to the LA Times, the Trump Administration has only built 5 new miles of border wall – yes, just five miles of border wall along a 1,954 mile long border.

However, the larger point is that we are still wasting billions of dollars to built an apartheid wall twice as tall as the Berlin Wall. It’s a complete waste of money and it’s wreaking havoc on our environment, politics, and security.

Trump is racing to complete more border wall in time for the November election.

The election is just over a month away and the Trump administration is quickly realizing that one of Trump’s biggest promises to his supporters, remains unfulfilled. This has led to an all out push to construct additional border wall, with construction crews now adding nearly two miles per day. It is an unprecedented pace toward meeting one of Trump’s signature 2016 campaign promises.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) say that the rate of construction has nearly doubled since the beginning of the year, accelerated by the government’s ability to cut through national forests, wildlife preserves and other public lands already under federal control.

The rapid pace of construction has had the biggest impact in Arizona. There, crews have literally blasted through protected areas and federal lands — areas where the administration is able to bypass environmental laws, archaeological reviews and other safeguards.

In fact, crews have been using dynamite to level the steep sides of Guadalupe Canyon, a rugged span where the cost of the barrier exceeds $41 million per mile. Across the state at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, border agents have forcefully broken up protests by members of the O’odham Nation attempting to block the bulldozers near ancestral burial sites and a fragile desert oasis.

Officials hope to hold a ceremony celebrating 400-miles of new border wall before the election.

Trump is hoping to celebrate the 400-mile mark with a major celebration touting his great success on the border wall. But as earlier figures show, it’s all a sham. Most of the border wall that’s being built is not new.

However, Mark Morgan, the acting CBP commissioner, told reporters that the president has proved his doubters and critics wrong.

“Even as the nonbelievers, the folks who have been out there for a very long time who said we were never going to get this done, what I refer to as the judicial activism of lower courts that have tried to stop our construction of the wall, the false narratives and, quite frankly, the lies out there about the effectiveness and need of the wall — despite all that — this president has remained steadfast in his commitment, his commitment to the American people and to the men and women of CBP,” said Morgan, erroneously claiming the government was building 10 miles per day.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden says he will shut down border wall construction if elected president.

As with so much else, the future of the wall project is contingent on the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Biden has been very open about his plan to immediately end construction of the border wall if elected. This could be a big shock to the giant industry that has sprouted up to build the wall. Crews have been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on at least five locations on the border, according to officials overseeing the project who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the Washington Post.

“There will not be another foot of wall construction in my administration,” Biden said in August during an interview with reporters from the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Biden said he favors “high tech” systems that rely on surveillance technology and would direct resources to the legal border crossings where most illegal narcotics are seized.

Despite the lack of new construction, CBP officials are already calling the wall a success.

Officials say that the increase in apprehensions of migrants caught hiding in tractor trailers or coming ashore on California beaches is proof that the border wall is working. But that just simply isn’t the case when you’ve only built 5-miles of border wall.

Meanwhile, even though it’s patently false, Trump continues to deceive the public with claims that Mexico is footing the bill. Mexico is not paying for the wall.

The president has obtained $15 billion in federal funds for the project, but just one-third of that money has been authorized by Congress. The rest, nearly $10 billion, has been diverted from the U.S. military budget, giving Trump enough to build 738 miles of new barriers, or enough to cover more than a third of the 2,000-mile boundary with Mexico.

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

Gerald Herbert / Getty Images

In what many are calling a landmark decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just handed a major victory to migrant’s rights advocates. Although the major ruling seems simple on paper, it has major legal implications and could truly change the way that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrest undocumented immigrants.

However, the decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court – where it would face an uncertain legal future given the possible future makeup of the nation’s highest court.

The 9th Circuit Court just issued a landmark legal decision that could greatly affect ICE arrests.

Credit: Eric Risberg / Getty Images

Long-standing rules for arresting migrants may soon need to change, thanks to a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court says that ICE needs to align its arresting and detention procedures with those of all other law enforcement agencies in the country, which are guided by rules within the U.S. constitution. When police arrest people for suspected crimes, the constitution requires them to show probable cause to a judge within 48 hours. But ICE does not do that. When ICE arrests people, it typically holds them for weeks before any judge evaluates whether ICE had a valid legal basis to make the arrest.

But ICE’s policies may no longer be legal.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the usual constitutional rules that apply to normal police all over the country also apply to ICE. “The Fourth Amendment requires a prompt probable cause determination by a neutral and detached magistrate,” the court said. This really shouldn’t be a big deal. Prompt independent review by a judge of whether the government has a legal basis to take away a person’s freedom is an essential safeguard against tyranny.

ICE’s arrest and detention policies have long come under scrutiny for seemingly skirting constitutional rules.

Credit: Joseph Sohm / Getty Images

For almost 200 years, immigration enforcement has existed in a sort of grey area, where the usual rules never applied. For example, when ICE arrests people, individual officers have much more legal discretion than other law enforcement authorities. Detainees may be held for weeks or months before going to a judge who will ask the person how they plead to ICE’s allegations against them.

Only then, long after the initial arrest, might ICE actually be required to show a judge any evidence to back up its case. The person would have spent all of that time detained, likely at a private detention center in a remote area.

For any other person in the U.S., this procedure goes against every legal protection in the constitution. But ICE has gotten away with treating immigrants this way for generations.

The ruling comes as other courts are making it easier for ICE to abuse migrant’s constitutional rights.

The ruling by the 9th Circuit comes less than a week after the 1st Circuit overturned a ban prohibiting ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants at courthouses in Massachusetts.

In 2018, ICE created a policy of attempting to arrest undocumented immigrants when they appeared at state courthouses for judicial proceedings. However, a district court granted an injunction against the policy after migrant advocates filed a lawsuit against ICE. They claimed that ICE was in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and lacked authority to make civil arrests at courts.

Meanwhile, ICE has resumed large-scale enforcement operations, announcing roughly 2,000 arrests over several weeks amid the Coronavirus pandemic. The 9th Circuit’s decision raises an obvious question: How many of those people were detained for more than 48 hours without a review by a judge?

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