Rules Will Allow DNA Samples From Federal Detainees

Rules will allow DNA samples from federal detainees

Currently, only those convicted of federal crimes can have DNA samples taken. Critics say the new rules, which take effect next month, would violate individual rights without solving more crimes.

By Evelyn Larrubia
Los Angeles Times, December 13, 2008

Immigration detainees and others arrested for federal crimes will be forced to provide DNA samples beginning in January under new rules promulgated by the Justice Department this week, raising the ire of immigrant rights advocates and other groups.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), author of a 2005 law that authorized the department to include pre-conviction DNA samples in its national database, said the change would help prevent violent crimes by deportees who return illegally or who commit crimes pending prosecution on earlier charges.

'We know from past experience that collecting DNA at arrest or deportation will prevent rapes and murders that would otherwise be committed,' Kyl said in a statement.

Currently, the government collects DNA samples only from those convicted of federal crimes. More than 6.2 million DNA analyses have been added to the national database since its creation.

The new rules will allow federal agents to take DNA samples at the time of arrest, rather than waiting for a conviction. They take effect Jan. 9.

Kyl cited an Arizona case in which a man who was deported in 2003 returned illegally and allegedly stalked and raped young teenage girls while their single mothers were at work. He also noted the case of Anthony Dias, who was arrested for felony hit and run in Washington state in July 2005. A month later, Dias began a three-month crime spree, raping several women in home invasions and kidnappings.

But immigration lawyers and other groups condemned the new rules, saying they would violate individuals' rights without necessarily solving more crimes.

'There seems to be a movement to defining anybody who's here in the United States unlawfully as a criminal per se,' said Los Angeles immigration lawyer Alan Diamante, former president of the Mexican American Bar Assn. 'A lot of these folks don't have any crimes other than the fact that they're here unlawfully. I see these people as innocent.'

UC Davis Law School Dean Kevin Johnson said the rules were likely to be challenged in court because they violate the privacy rights of people who have not been convicted of a crime.

'It's unfair on so many levels it's hard to describe,' Johnson said. 'You can make the argument that we should take the DNA of the entire population because if we did it could help us solve crimes. But we've made this decision that as a society . . . the freedoms that we stand for are more important.'

A Justice Department spokesman said the DNA samples would be used only as a form of identification, the way fingerprints are today.

As part of its 2008 budget, the FBI requested more than $14 million to upgrade its DNA programs and $7 million to upgrade its software to accommodate the increased workload.

'The FBI expects that the number of samples submitted . . . will increase by over 430% to more than 1,300,000 samples from illegal immigrants, detainees and federal arrestees,' the document reads.

Federal officials said arrestees whose cases did not end in conviction could petition to have their DNA removed from the database.