Tlaib denounces Trump admin immigrant DNA collection

Migrants hold hands as they cross the border between the U.S. and Mexico at the Rio Grande river, on their way to enter El Paso, Texas, on May 20, 2019 as taken from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) on Tuesday called the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) action to collect DNA from immigrants and migrants at the border in Detroit “disgusting and inhumane.”

“This administration moves our society toward one of injustice and suffering day after day,” Tlaib said. “This alarming effort to collect DNA from immigrants and migrants, including children, flies in the face of the values we strive to uphold in this country.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib | Robin Bravender

Tlaib, the first-term Capitol Hill lawmaker whose parents are Palestinian immigrants, continued, “Instead of being a welcoming country, we are criminalizing those in need from the very start, with the clear intent of discouraging people from seeking refuge in America.”

The President Trump administration began implementing a pilot program Monday to collect DNA samples from certain migrants and immigrants in U.S. immigration custody, including teenagers and green card holders, according to CBS News. It’s the first stage of a controversial and sweeping plan, the network reported.

Border Patrol officers in the Detroit sector of the border with Canada and CBP personnel at the Eagle Pass, Texas port of entry along the United States-Mexico frontier have been instructed to collect DNA from certain migrants, CBS reports. The samples are from cheek swabs. The biometric information would be used to create profiles in a massive national criminal database run by the FBI.

The effort is the first phase of a five-part, three-year Department of Homeland Security initiative to obtain DNA profiles from virtually all migrants in U.S. custody, whether or not they’ve committed crimes.

DACA, deportations and Trump: The year in the Advance’s immigration reporting

“Every member of Congress and this administration should go through this dehumanizing process and see and feel for themselves how wrong this is,” Tlaib said. “Those coming to this country should be met with compassion and a just immigration system. Instead, they are met with policies that separate children from their parents and criminalize people for seeking a better, safer future. This policy should be halted immediately and prohibited permanently.”

Susan Reed, Michigan Immigrant Rights Center managing attorney, sounded alarm on Tuesday.

“The practice is invasive, unwarranted, and has uncertain future privacy implications as the technology evolves,” she said.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.