Documents just released by US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) in response to one of EFF’s Freedom of Information Act requests show that DHS is considering collecting DNA from kids ages 14 and up—and is exploring expanding its regulations to allow collection from kids younger than that.
The proposal appears to be working its way through DHS in the wake of regulations from the Department of Justice that require all federal agencies—including DHS and its components such as ICE—to collect DNA from individuals arrested for federal crimes as well as “from non-United States persons who are detained under the authority of the United States,” whether or not they have been involved in criminal activity. While the law specifically exempts a few classes of “aliens,” the documents we received show DHS may start DNA collection from anyone it fingerprints. Currently, that’s any child over 14 who’s detained, but we also found records that show ICE could lower that age even more.
DHS estimates that as many as 1 million people who are subject to administrative detention or arrest annually could now be subject to DNA collection. But it’s important to note that many of these people are not involved in criminal activity. Collecting DNA from anyone detained by the government for any number of non-criminal reasons—especially juveniles—seems to be yet another step on the slippery slope to collecting DNA from everyone in the United States, no matter their status.
ICE is the first component within DHS to collect DNA under the new DOJ regulations. ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) offices in San Diego, St. Paul, and San Juan, Puerto Rico are part of a 6-month pilot program to test out the new procedures and were set to start collecting DNA around July 2010. After the pilot program, the rest of HSI’s offices (more than 200 throughout the US and abroad) will start collecting DNA and presumably all other DHS components will follow suit shortly thereafter.
When the DOJ expanded its DNA collection regulations in 2009, it specifically required agencies to collect DNA from all populations they fingerprint. DHS regulations allow the agency to collect biometrics from aliens coming into the US who are 14 and older, so DHS can currently collect DNA from kids this age as well. However, the agency may also be considering collecting biometrics from kids younger than 14. A slide presentation from March 2011, titled “Working Group on Expanding the Biometric Age Range” notes that some DHS programs are already collecting biometrics from kids younger than 14 and proposes expanding the age range for more DHS entities (including ICE). Because of the DOJ regulations, this would mean that DHS could collect DNA even from very young kids.
It turns out that DHS is not the first federal or even state agency to collect DNA from juveniles.