The Ethics of DNA Testing at the Border
46 American Journal of Law & Medicine 253 (2020)
21 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2020
Date Written: July 12, 2020
From 2018 to 2020, the U.S. government dramatically expanded DNA surveillance of immigrants. The most recent expansion, finalized in March 2020, effectively requires the collection of DNA from all immigration detainees and storage of their genetic information in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (“FBI”) Combined DNA Index System (“CODIS”) database for criminal forensic investigation. This new policy is ethically troubling because it fails to address the potential privacy harms it creates; shifts the application of DNA analysis for criminal investigation from retrospective to prospective assessment of criminality; and disparately impacts racial and ethnic minorities. In this time of extreme immigration policymaking, the expansion of DNA surveillance of immigrants should be recognized as an element of a larger project of dehumanizing immigrants and criminalizing immigration.
Although the policy applies only to immigrants, it is contributing to a transformation of norms around collection and retention of genetic information by the U.S. government generally, which can be expected to spill over to U.S. citizens. Advocates, policymakers, and scholars with expertise in genetic privacy, bioethics, or immigration must speak up to ensure that regulation of DNA collection and analysis in the immigration context is guided by the principles of necessity and proportionality.
Keywords: DNA test, forensic DNA, surveillance, privacy, CODIS, bioethics, immigration, immigration enforcement, border policy
JEL Classification: K37, K30, K10, F22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation