The Department of Homeland Security will begin collecting DNA samples from illegal immigrants in April following the Justice Department’s posting of a new rule on Friday.
The move comes after the Trump administration announced plans in October for the rule to fulfill a 2005 law, the DNA Fingerprint Act, which mandates the collection.
The new rule was posted online Friday and scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on March 9, the Washington Times reported.
It allows Attorney General William Barr to nullify a waiver granted in 2010 by then-Attorney General Eric Holder to then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The rule will order the collection of DNA by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agents and officers of non-U.S. citizens who are detained for criminal offenses in federal facilities.
Civil liberties groups criticized the decision, saying the move could affect hundreds of thousands of people, including refugees, asylum seekers and children who are in administrative detention but haven’t committed any crimes.
“Collecting the genetic blueprints of people in immigration detention doesn’t make us safer,” ACLU Policy Counsel Naureen Shah said in a statement on Friday.
The Justice Department said the new rule is needed to keep track of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.
“The failure to collect DNA has allowed subjects accused of violent crimes, including homicide and sexual assault, to avoid detection even when they have been detained multiple times,” a Justice Department statement said.
Customs and Border Protection agents have been conducting a pilot program since January, collecting collect DNA samples with cheek swabs from some migrants apprehended in Detroit and at the Eagle Pass port of entry in southwest Texas.
The Trump administration: tough on immigration enforcement
The action is the latest step by President Donald Trump to more vigorously enforce immigration laws. On Thursday, he said he would withhold money from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions.
That came after a U.S. court ruled that his administration could block federal law enforcement funds to states and cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan granted the move on Feb. 26, but three other federal appeals courts have agreed to uphold an injunction against the withholding of such funds, setting up a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The appeals court decision reversed a lower court ruling and set up a possible appeal to the Supreme Court, which often resolves legal disputes that divide lower courts.
In the ruling, Judge Reena Raggi said the case “implicates several of the most divisive issues confronting our country” including immigration policy and law enforcement, illegal immigrants and the ability of state and local governments to adopt policies the federal government dislikes.
In 2017, Trump’s administration conditioned receipt of funds known as Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants on state and local government’s willingness to provide federal immigration authorities with access to their jails as well as advance notice of immigrants’ release from custody.
Trump has intensified his fight against Democratic-led “sanctuary” jurisdictions whose laws or policies make it harder for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to track down and arrest immigrants they consider deportable.