(The Center Square) – U.S Customs and Border Protection agents collect more than a million DNA samples each year, but the agency doesn’t know if it is gathering all the samples it is required to by law.
In fiscal year 2022, Customs and Border Protection collected samples from about 37% of the 1.7 million people it encountered.
“The agency doesn’t know whether this covers all the people who are subject to the requirement – and it had trouble getting enough test kits during busy periods,” according to a summary of the report from the Government Accountability Office.
Under the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005 and another law in 2009, federal law enforcement agencies must collect DNA from certain people who are arrested, facing criminal charges or convicted, and from certain noncitizens who are detained. The agencies must then mail those DNA samples to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI enters the sample into the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS. The system allows federal, state, and local labs to exchange and compare DNA profiles.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection started collecting DNA samples in 2020. Before that, it was exempt from the rules because of limited resources, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. Even during the exempt period, the agency was required to collect DNA from those arrested for federal criminal offenses. in 2020, the agency’s directive was to collect DNA from people who were either arrested on federal criminal charges or “certain noncitizens detained for immigration violations and from whom the agency collects fingerprints,” according to the report.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection DNA collection efforts have led to 227 confirmed hits in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) since 2020. CODIS is a “computer software program that operates local, state, and national databases of DNA profiles from convicted offenders, unsolved crime scene evidence, and missing persons,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Of those 227 confirmed CODIS hits, five were in fiscal year 2020, 59 in fiscal year 2021 and 163 in fiscal year 2022. Law enforcement agencies use information from CODIS when investigating a crime.
The Government Accountability Office recommended U.S. Customs and Border Protection develop and implement “a mechanism to systematically collect data on the reasons why officers and agents are not collecting DNA from individuals arrested on federal criminal charges or certain noncitizens detained for immigration violations” to address the issue.
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