DNA from detained immigrants will change the nature of the FBI’s genetic database

Illustration by Ana Kova

Sending genetic material from detained immigrants to an FBI database could have consequences for both immigrant privacy protection and criminal justice in the US more generally, experts say. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the FBI’s national genetic database would house immigrant DNA, as part of a program that will collect DNA samples from people who are detained at the border. Those additions will fundamentally change the FBI’s system, both by expanding its scope and by amplifying the overrepresentation of people of color within the database.

“This has major implications for characterizing who we think of as a criminal,” says Bradley Malin, co-director of the Center for Genetic Privacy and Identity in…

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