tags: Press Releases

DNA Collection and CBP Checkpoints Far from Border Reminders that Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Zeal Overrides Concerns of Government Overreach

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The Trump administration’s relentless effort to demonize immigrants includes measures that raise serious civil liberties concerns. A new program that seeks to collect DNA samples and hugely expand an FBI database is one example. How extensive the “Constitution free zone” where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can operate with virtual impunity is another. These measures seem directly at odds with concerns about government overreach and intrusion coming from the political party allegedly in favor of small government.

Trump Administration to Collect DNA Samples from Asylum-Seekers and Detained Immigrants and Hugely Expand Government Databases.

As the Associated Press describes

The Trump administration is planning to collect DNA samples from asylum-seekers and other migrants detained by immigration officials and will add the information to a massive FBI database … The new policy would allow the government to amass a trove of biometric data on hundreds of thousands of migrants, raising major privacy concerns and questions about whether such data should be compelled…[A Department of Justice] official also said it would be a deterrent — the latest step aimed at discouraging migrants from trying to enter the United States between official crossings by adding hurdles to the immigration process.

Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU, said in response to the DNA announcement, “This proposed change in policy is extraordinary in its breadth and transparent with its xenophobic goals. It seeks to miscast these individuals, many of whom are seeking a better life or safety, as threats to the country’s security. And it turns immigration detention, which is supposed to be civil and not punitive, into a proxy to strip these individuals of their privacy rights.”

Reminders that for two-thirds of the U.S. population, CBP Can Operate with Impunity and in Violation of the Fourth Amendment. 

In a story titled, “A ‘reasonable distance?’ Why U.S. Border Patrol can operate deep into Vermont,” Vermont’s Burlington Free Press examines how virtually the entire state is subject to CBP checkpoints that ignore basic constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

By law, Border Patrol agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection are able to set up these checkpoints within 100 miles of the U.S. border, which includes the border with Canada, Mexico and the oceans. As a result, this distance includes most of Vermont.

…U.S. laws also give immigration officers the authority to — without a warrant — board any vessel within territorial waters of the U.S., or any railcar, aircraft, conveyance or vehicle, or conduct a checkpoint to search for illegal immigrants within 100 miles of the border. The law defines that distance as ‘reasonable.’  

…Sen. Patrick Leahy was one of the legislators who re-introduced a bill this year limiting Border Patrol’s ability to stop and search vehicles without a warrant from to within 25 miles from the border. “‘Show me your papers’ are words that you should never hear once inside the United States,” Leahy wrote in a statement in July. He added that government agents should not subject Americans to questioning or detention unless they have a legitimate reason, including reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime has been committed.

As the ACLU reminds us,

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects Americans from random and arbitrary stops and searches. According to the government, however, these basic constitutional principles do not apply fully at our borders … Specifically, federal regulations give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authority to operate within 100 miles of any U.S. ‘external boundary.’

…Many people think that border-related policies only impact people living in border towns like El Paso or San Diego. The reality is that Border Patrol’s interior enforcement operations encroach deep into and across the United States, affecting the majority of Americans. Roughly two-thirds of the United States’ population lives within the 100-mile zone—that is, within 100 miles of a U.S. land or coastal border. That’s about 200 million people.